O’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.’ A landlord’s obligation to repair only arose when he had notice of the defect, and ‘He will not have notice if no one knows that there is a defect.’
Lord Diplock said: ‘At the root of any analysis of the landlord’s obligations under a repairing covenant lies the initial question whether it is an undertaking by the landlord to prevent the premises ever getting out of repair during the continuance of the tenancy or whether it is an undertaking to do work of repair upon the premises from time to time as and when they have become out of repair. If it is the former the breach occurs as soon as the premises are in fact out of repair and continues until he has put them back into repair. If it is the latter, there is involved the subsidiary question as to the time at which the landlord’s obligation to do the necessary work of repair first arises. Until that time arrives there can be no breach of the obligation: nor can there be any breach thereafter if the landlord then carries out the necessary work of repair with reasonable expedition.’

Lord Reid, Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest, Lord Diplock, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, Lord Cross of Chelsea
[1973] UKHL 1, [1973] AC 912
Housing Act 1961 32, Housing of the Working Classes Act 1885
England and Wales
CitedMorgan 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 . .
CitedMcCarrick 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 . .
CitedMakin v Watkinson 1870
The court considered the extent of a Landlord’s duty of repair where he had entered into an express covenant for the purpose. . .
CitedSummers v Salford Corporation HL 1943
The tenant had given notice to the landlord’s agent that a sash-cord in the only window of a bedroom had broken. No repair was effected and about two months later the second sash-cord broke injuring the tenant. The House was asked whether there was . .
CitedFisher v Walters KBD 1926
T complained of being injured when the ceiling fell in the house. The defect was latent.
Held: L was not liable without notice of the defect. . .
CitedGriffin v Fillet 1926
The tenant gave notice to his landlord that steps to the dwelling-house needed attention but the lessee did not know that the steps were in fact actually dangerous.
Held: The landlord’s liability rested upon the lessor when subsequently he, . .

Cited by:
CitedHussain v Mehlman CC 5-Mar-1992
(County Court) The defendant landlord granted the plaintiff a three year assured shorthold tenancy. He now appealed a finding that he was in breach of an implied covenant to maintain the space heating, and otherwise. The tenant had returned the . .
CitedBritish Telecommunications Plc v Sun Life Assurance Society Plc CA 3-Aug-1995
A landlord became in breach of his duty of repair under his covenant immediately the repairable defect occurred, not after a reasonable time had been given to make the repair. Nourse LJ summarised the earlier authorities: ‘It is now established by a . .
CitedSykes v Harry and Trustee of Estate of Harry, a Bankrupt CA 1-Feb-2001
The tenant appealed dismissal of his claim for damages. He had suffered serious injury after inhaling carbon monoxide fumes from a defective gas fire. The fire had not been maintained and a fall of soot eventually prevented the escape of fumes.
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.

Personal Injury, Landlord and Tenant

Leading Case

Updated: 10 November 2021; Ref: scu.248600