Morgan v Liverpool Corporation: CA 1927

The tenant claimed that he had been injured when as the upper portion of a window was being opened one of the cords of the window sash broke and the top part of the window slipped down and caught and injured his hand. The plaintiff admitted that the defect was latent one (of which the plaintiff did not know and about which accordingly he could not give any notice) but it was contended that (there was a statutory obligation on the landlord which was different from that contained in an ordinary covenant and that in the Act, there were no words requiring that any notice should be given to the landlord. He said that L failed to perform the statutory obligationn that the house would be ‘kept in all respects reasonably fit ‘for human habitation.’ L had a right to enter the property to inspect its condition.
Held: L was not liable. Liability would be conditional upon his having been given notice of any defects even though they were latent ones. The right to enter to inspect did not change this.
Lord Hanworth MR said that it was long established that where there is a covenant on the part of a landlord to keep premises in repair the tenant must give notice to the landlord of what is out of repair. Notice was required whether or not the landlord had means of access. The fact that the origin of a covenant was statutory did not give the covenant any higher authority than one inserted in a contract by the parties.
Atkin LJ said: ‘Here is a case of something which arose quite suddenly. It is possible that a very careful inspection of the window cords might have revealed the state in which they were, but there are many other defects which arise quite suddenly, leaks quite suddenly spring up in joints of water pipes and gas pipes, and so on, and to say that the landlord is responsible for the consequences of those not being in repair in circumstances in which no time could have elapsed between the time when the defect first arose and the time when the injury from it occurred, would certainly be to impose a very harsh obligation upon a landlord which the Courts do not impose except subject to a condition that he must receive notice of the defect. To my mind in those circumstances it is clear that, if the landlord gives the exclusive occupation to the tenant, the landlord does not in fact know, and in this case could not know of the defect.’
In ordinary circumstances L’s obligation to repair does not come into existence until he has notice of the defect which his contract to repair requires him to make good: ‘I think the power of access that is given, extensive though it may be, does not take the case away from the principle from which the Courts have inferred the condition that the liability is not to arise except on notice. The position is quite a satisfactory one, because as soon as the tenant is aware of the defect he must then give notice, and if the landlord does not repair it, the landlord will be liable. If in fact the tenant is not able to ascertain the defect, there seems to be no reason why the landlord should be exposed to what remains still the same injustice of being required to repair a defect of which he does not know, which seems to me to be the real reason for the rule. This was a case in which notice was not given to the landlord. As I have said, it appears to me that, as soon as the defect became so known by the fall of the sash, the tenant was able to give notice to the landlord and did give notice. In my view the landlord then became under a liability to repair in the circumstances of this case, because if he did not, the house would be in a state not in all respects fit for human habitation ; but as no notice was given, I think the landlord was not liable.’
Lawrence LJ said: ‘On the question of notice I am in complete agreement with the judgments delivered by the Master of the Rolls and Atkin LJ and have very little to add. In my opinion the established rule is that the obligation of the landlord to keep the premises in repair is not broken unless notice has been given to him of the want of repair, and that mere knowledge is not sufficient to saddle the landlord with liability. The foundation of such rule is that the tenant in occupation is generally in a far better position to know of any want of repair. I am further of opinion that for the reasons stated by Atkin LJ the rule applies to latent as well as to patent defects, and certainly applies to the defect which existed in the present case.’


Lord Hanworth MR, Atkin LJ, Lawrence LJ


[1927] 2 KB 131


Housing Act 1925


England and Wales

Cited by:

ApprovedMcCarrick v Liverpool Corporation HL 1947
Premises’ Defect – No Notice Liability on L
The tenant’s wife was injured falling from defective stone steps leading from the kitchen to the back kitchen of the house. Under section the 1936 Act, the judge found the house not to have been kept in the state required. No notice of want of . .
CitedO’Brien v Robinson HL 19-Feb-1973
The plaintiffs sought damages after being injured when the ceiling of their bedroom fell on them. They were tenants of the defendants.
Held: The 1961 Act implied a duty on L to keep in repair the structure. What was meant by ‘keep in repair.’ . .
CitedCunningham v Birmingham City Council Admn 6-May-1997
The council appealed against the finding that the complainant’s premises occupied under a tenancy of the council, constituted a statutory nuisance which they had a duty to abate. The claimant’s son was disabled and his condition involved behavioural . .
CitedEdwards v Kumarasamy SC 13-Jul-2016
The claimant sub-tenant had been injured entering the block of apartments. He said that the freeholder was responsible despite no report of the disrepair having been made. The lease excused the landlord from unnotified liability. The parties . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Landlord and Tenant, Personal Injury

Updated: 20 May 2022; Ref: scu.259929