Nuisance tenants – another reason why it pays to have a formal tenancy…

There has been much in the  press over the last few weeks about the property law dispute case of Cocking v. Eacott & Waring in which the appeal court held that Ms Waring was responsible for her daughter’s noisy dog even though she lived 30 miles away.

There are plenty of salacious details about the facts of the case in the tabloid press so I’ll limit my comments here to explaining that, amongst other issues, the complaint in the court case focused on the fact that Ms Waring’s daughter owned a dog with separation anxiety which barked incessantly for a number of years.

From a legal perspective the case is interesting because Ms Waring owned the house that her daughter lived in and allowed her to reside at the property rent free as long as she paid for her outgoings. This despite the fact that the pair were apparently estranged.

Whilst there was no question that the daughter herself was liable for the nuisance caused by her dog the court held that Ms Waring was also responsible and she was ordered to pay a share of the total damages plus the legal costs of the neighbours who had brought the case. This decision was taken on the basis that Ms Waring was a licensor rather than a landlord – ie her daughter occupied the property under a licence arrangement rather than a formal tenancy. Had she been a landlord she would not have been held liable for the nuisance of her tenant. As a licensor she retained a degree of control over the property that should have enabled her to stop the nuisance from happening.

If nothing else this case should serve as a warning to those who allow friends or relatives to live in properties they own without having a formal tenancy agreement in place. If this is you, think twice!

A dog with 'separation anxiety' has cost a mother more than £30,000 in lawyers' bill as she tries to convince the court her daughter should pay the noise fines.
Kim Eacott's terrier, Scally, barked incessantly when she was not at her Victorian cottage in Herefordshire, which was bought and paid for by her mother Angela Waring despite the pair having badly fallen out.
Although she lived 30 miles away and was not on speaking terms with her daughter, Mrs Waring says she tried her best to calm the situation and even offered to take Scally to a 'dog whisperer' in an effort to relax him.