Sharpe v Manchester CC (1981 – 82)

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Sharpe v Manchester CC (1981 – 82) 5 HLR 71

The availability of a claim in private nuisance against a landlord within a block of flats and whether failure to abate this nuisance renders the landlord negligent


The claimant was a council tenant in block of flats owned by the defendant between 1972 and 1974. From the moment that the claimant took up residence in the property, his flat suffered from a cockroach infestation. The defendant council undertook to remove the infestation with the use of DDT pesticide, which the council was aware was not the most efficient method of destroying the cockroaches. Furthermore, the council only treated the inside of the claimant’s flat and whilst this treatment did successfully kill the cockroaches, it did not address the source of the issue which expert evidence considered to be the service ducts to the property and which could have been easily treated without disturbing other residents. At first instance, it was held that whilst the infestation emanating from a communal part of the property could constitute a nuisance, the council was not liable to the claimant in that it had taken reasonable steps to prevent the infestation. The claimant appealed on the basis that, on the facts, the council had not taken reasonable steps because it used a less effective insecticide and did not treat the service ducts.


The issue in this circumstance was whether a failure to take reasonable action to abate a nuisance caused a landlord to be liable in negligence.


It was held that an insect infestation emanating from within the same building could cause a nuisance and that if a landlord failed to take all reasonable steps to remove the nuisance it would be found negligent. On the facts here, the council should have used an alternative pesticide and treated the service ducts and was therefore liable to the claimant. 

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