Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Abatement Definition:

A reduction in some amount that is owed, usually granted by the person to whom the debt is owed. In the law of torts, the summary removal of a nuisance.

Related Terms: Debt, Nuisance, Ademption, Spite Fence, Abate

For example, a landlord might grant an abatement in rent.

The taxman might accept an abatement of taxes facing the alternative, for example  of the tax debtor's bankruptcy.

In one case, a mill used overflow water. The lease anticipated the possibility of a stoppage of water:

"... and that in such cases, if the stoppage was temporary, the (mill) was neither to be entitled to abatement of his rent or compensation in damages, but that if the stoppage was total for an uninterrupted period of 6 calendar months during the usual navigation season (the Mill was to be allowed) in full compensation for the same and for any loss or damage they may thereby sustain an abatement of six calendar months rent accruing for any and every such period of continuous interruption."

In a shipping case, where the quality of a ship was at issue, the Court said:

"Assuming the law of England -- or what for this purpose is the same thing, the law of British Columbia -- to apply, the owners will, in these proceedings, be entitled to the benefit of an abatement of the price only to the extent to which they shall shew that, by reason of the failure of the appellants to fulfill their contract, the value of the ship, at the time of delivery, was less than it would have been had the appellants been chargeable with no such default."

A will might say:

"... should my estate be insufficient to pay the bequeaths in full, I direct that the bequeaths abate proportionately".

In estate law, the word may also refer more specifically to a situation where property identified in a will cannot be given to the beneficiary because it had to be sold by the personal representative to pay off the deceased's debts.

Debts are paid before gifts made in wills are distributed and where a specific gift has to be sold to pay off a debt, it is said to "abate" (compare with ademption).

In the law of nuisance (torts), an abatement is a form of vigilante justice which is sometimes sanctioned by tort law in limited circumstances.

The Halsbury's Laws of England (1997) description:

"Abatement means the summary removal or remedy or a nuisance by the party injured without having recourse to legal proceedings. It is not a remedy which the law favours and is not usually advisable.

"It is appropriate only in simple cases which would not justify the expense of legal proceedings and urgent cases which require an immediate remedy."

Wharton, in 1902, wrote:

"Abatement or removal of nuisances: a remedy allowed by law to the party injured by a nuisance to abate, destroy, remove or put an end to the same by his own act."


  • Beach v Canada 1906 37 SCR 259
  • Bow McLachlan v The Camosun 1908 40 SCR 418
  • Lely, J., Wharton's Law Lexicon (London: Stevens & Sons, 1902), page 2.
  • Re West Estate 1942 SCR 120

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