Swansea City Council v Glass: CA 1992

The defendant had failed himself to repair his property, and the Local Authority carried out the work itself under the 1957 Act. It sought to recover the associated costs from the defendant, but he said that their claim was time barred, being more than six years after the work had been concluded. The authority argued that it was not more than six years from when it had served the notices demanding payment.
Held: The notices were not the cause of action, but only a condition precedent to bringing an action. Accordingly time ran from the conclusion of the works, and the claim was out of time.
Taylor LJ said: ‘Section 10(4) provides expressly that where the local authority opts to take summary proceedings to recover their expenses, the limitation period runs from the date of service of the demand or, if there is an appeal, the date when the demand becomes operative. Again, by implication, since no such provision is applied to proceedings in the High Court or County Court, time in those proceedings does not run from the date when the demand is served or becomes operative. It will run from the accrual of the cause of action which, ex hypothesi, is a different time.
The rationale of the distinction between summary and other proceedings probably lies in the respective limitation periods. In summary proceedings the period is six months. If time were to run from the accrual of the cause of action, i.e. when the expenses were incurred, summary proceedings might often be statute-barred before they could be brought, especially where there was an appeal against the demand. In other proceedings, however, the limitation period of six years gives, or should give, the local authority ample time to sue even after an appeal against their demand. In my judgment, the expression, special to section 10(4), that time runs from service of the demand or when it becomes operative, is intended to distinguish summary proceedings from other proceedings. Inclusio unius, exclusio alterius. In other proceedings, time runs from the accrual of the cause of action, i.e. when the four elements identified above are complete. Thus, I conclude that the requirement to serve a demand is a procedural condition precedent to bringing proceedings. It is not part of the cause of action.
I am fortified in this view by consideration of what could result if the local authority were right. Upon their argument, the local authority could delay service of a demand indefinitely. Then, having served their demand long after the works were complete, they would have a further six years in which to take proceedings in the High Court or the county court.’
Taylor LJ also noted that: ”Although not on all fours with the present case, these decisions show that a cause of action may well accrue before, for procedural reasons, the plaintiff can bring proceedings. Where the cause of action arises from statute, the question as to what is merely procedural and what is an ‘inherent element’ in the cause of action is one of construction.’ It is a question of construction of the relevant instrument, whether statute, regulations, rules or contract, in each case as to whether there is such a difference.


Taylor LJ


[1992] 1 QB 844, [1992] CLY 2828, [1992] 2 All ER 680, [1992] 3 WLR 123


Housing Act 1957 10(4), Limitation Act 1980


England and Wales


CitedCoburn v Colledge CA 5-Apr-1897
A solicitor commenced an action on June 12th, 1896 for his fees for work which had been completed on May 30th 1889.
Held: A period of limitation runs from the date on which the ingredients of the cause of action are complete. The statute of . .
CitedCentral Electricity Generating Board v Halifax Corporation HL 1963
Under the 1947 Act, the assets of electricity undertakings were transferred to to electricity boards. Property held by local authorities as authorised undertakers should, on vesting day, vest in the relevant board. A question arose as to whether . .
CitedSevcon Ltd v Lucas CAV Ltd HL 1986
A claim was brought for the infringement of a patent. It was brought after the specification had been published, but before the patent had been sealed.
Held: Time might run from a date before the plaintiff was entitled to sue. The cause of . .

Cited by:

CitedThe Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea v Amanullah Khan and The Wellcome Trust ChD 13-Jun-2001
The authority had served notices on the second defendant, requiring him to execute works to bring a property up to a habitable condition. Eventually the authority executed the works themselves, and sought repayment from him of the costs. He resisted . .
CitedLegal Services Commission v Henthorn CA 30-Nov-2011
The Commission sought to recover what it said were payments made on account to the respondent barrister, but only after many years had passed. The Commission argued that time only began to run once it requested repayment.
Held: The appeal . .
CitedHillingdon London Borough Council v ARC Ltd ChD 12-Jun-1997
The Council had taken possession of the company’s land under compulsory purchase powers, but the company delayed its claim for compensation, and the Council now said that the claim was time barred.
Held: The claim was indeed time barred. The . .
CitedRoyal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea v Khan and Wellcome Trust ChD 8-Jun-2001
. .
CitedRoyal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea v Khan and Another CA 16-Jan-2002
. .
CitedHowe v Motor Insurers’ Bureau QBD 22-Mar-2016
The claimant sought damages after a road traffic accident in France caused by a wheel spinning from a still unidentified lorry.
Held: Rejected . .
CitedFMX Food Merchants Import Export Co Ltd v Revenue and Customs SC 29-Jan-2020
This appeal concerns the meaning and effect of the phrase ‘Customs Debt’ in article 221(4) of the former Customs Code of the EU, contained in Council Regulation (EEC) No 2913/92. Customs duties may be due under ‘post-clearance demands’ and the Court . .
CitedDoyle v PRA Group (UK) Ltd CA 23-Jan-2019
Whether the cause of action for the outstanding sums accrued when Mr Doyle first defaulted in his payments or only when Mr Doyle failed to comply with the default notice stipulated by CCA s.87(1) and required by clause 8f of the Agreement. Mr Doyle . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Limitation, Housing, Local Government

Updated: 08 August 2022; Ref: scu.180520