Sykes 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.
Held: The appeal succeeded, and the defendant was 80% liable for the injury. Where a defect in premises led to a tenant’s injury, it was not necessary to show that the landlord had actual or constructive knowledge of the defect. If the landlord had failed to take the reasonable care which could have been expected of him to ensure the tenants personal safety, he could be liable. The purpose of the 1972 Act was to break away from the historic limitations placed by the common law upon the duty/liability of a landlord to persons injured as a result of defects in the condition of premises owned by him.
‘The judge was in error in equating the task of the claimant, as tenant, in establishing a breach of duty under s.4 of the 1972 Act, with his need under s.11 of the 1985 Act to demonstrate notice (actual or constructive) of the actual defect giving rise to the injury. The question the judge should have asked himself was whether, in the light of the findings of fact which he had made, the first defendant had, by his failure to service the gas fire regularly or at all, or otherwise to take steps to check or make appropriate enquiries of the tenant as to the servicing and/or state of the gas fire during the eight-year period before the claimant’s accident, failed in his duty to take such care as was reasonable in all the circumstances to see that the claimant was reasonably safe from injury. ‘


Potter LJ, Hale LJ, Butler-Sloss P


Times 27-Feb-2001, Gazette 05-Apr-2001, [2001] EWCA Civ 167, [2001] 3 WLR 62, [2001] NPC 26, [2001] L and TR 40, (2001) 33 HLR 80, (2001) 82 P and CR DG9, [2001] 17 EG 221, [2001] 1 EGLR 53, [2001] QB 1014, (2001) 82 P and CR 35




Defective Premises Act 1972 4, Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 11


England and Wales


See AlsoSykes v Harry CA 14-Oct-1998
The plaintiff sought damages against the defendant after he was severely injured by inhaling carbon monoxide fumes whilst a tenant of the defendant. The defendant sought to strike out the claim, saying that the plaintiff had himself maintained the . .
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.’ . .
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 . .
CitedMcGreal v Wake 1984
A landlord has the right to enter his premises for the purpose of carrying out the work required under his covenant for repair. . .
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 . .
CitedCavalier v Pope HL 22-Jun-1906
The wife of the tenant of a house let unfurnished sought to recover from the landlord damages for personal injuries arising from the non-repair of the house, on the ground that the landlord had contracted with her husband to repair the house.

Cited by:

CitedClark and Another (Executors of Peggy Eileen Clark Deceased) v Revenue and Customs SCIT 27-Sep-2005
SCIT INHERITANCE TAX – business relief – company actively managing properties and carrying out its own building and maintenance work – whether its business consists wholly or mainly of making or holding . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Landlord and Tenant, Housing, Torts – Other

Updated: 31 May 2022; Ref: scu.147417