Owen v Gadd: CA 1956

The lessors had let a ground floor shop to the lessee. To repair to the first floor, they erected scaffolding. They did what they could to minimise inconvenience to the lessee. They completed the repairs within a fortnight. The scaffolding hindered, but did not prevent, access to the lessee’s premises. It obscured his display of wares to some extent. A contractual provision denied the plaintiff an action for nuisance.
Held: The award of only nominal damages to the tenant was upheld. There could be a breach of the covenant for quiet enjoyment without an actual physical interruption into or upon demised premises on the part of the landlord. For there to be a case of interference with quiet enjoyment, there must be substantial physical interference with the enjoyment of the premises. ‘The question whether the quiet enjoyment of the premises demised has been interrupted or not is in every case one of fact; and the covenant is broken although neither the title to the land nor the possession of the land may be otherwise affected, where the ordinary and lawful enjoyment is substantially interfered with by the acts of the lessor or of those lawfully claiming under him.’
Lord Evershed MR said: ‘It was said by Mr. Chapman that we must further qualify the language of Fry L.J. and that there could be no breach of the covenant for quiet enjoyment unless there was what he called an actual physical irruption into or upon the premises demised on the part of the landlords or some persons authorized by them by their actually entering upon or invading the premises, or by, e.g., the irruption thereon of water emitted from the landlords’ premises elsewhere. In my judgment, that submission is not justified by the authorities. I do not think that there is any sufficient warrant for such a limitation [upon the statements of Fry LJ in Sanderson v Mayor of Berwick-on-Tweed (1884) 13 QBD 547]. Concluding, therefore, as I do, that in this case the judge was entitled to find as a fact that the interference was substantial and that there was no principle of law which disqualified him from concluding as he did, I think that this appeal must fail . .’
Whilst agreeing, Romer LJ said: ‘Then comes the question whether the degree of interruption be such as to constitute a ground for legal complaint or whether it should be merely dismissed on the ground of its being of a temporary character or on the ground of de minimis. That appears to me to be essentially a question of fact to be determined by the judge who tries the action . . I cannot see that the judge’s finding should be displaced by the considerations on which Mr Chapman relied, which may be summarized in this way: that the work of external repair which the lessors put in hand was reasonably necessary, that it was efficiently done and was done with all reasonable speed. I do not think that those considerations are really relevant to the question of whether there has been a breach of the tenant’s contractual rights under the covenant for quiet enjoyment . .’

Lord Evershed MR, Romer LJ, Birkett LJ
[1956] 2 QB 99
England and Wales
Cited by:
CitedGoldmile Properties Limited v Speiro Lechouritis CA 29-Jan-2003
The tenant claimed damages form his landlord for breach of the covenant for quiet enjoyment. The landlord was obliged to repair the building, and in his doing so the tenant suffered losses through interruptions. The question was whether the Landlord . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Landlord and Tenant

Updated: 22 January 2022; Ref: scu.182776