Write a Case Note on Liverpool City Council V Irwin [1977] Ac 239.

Topics: Contract, Tort, Law Pages: 7 (2699 words) Published: November 10, 2012
Write a case note on Liverpool City Council v Irwin [1977] AC 239. The appeal at the House of Lords came up on, February 16th, 17th, 18th and on the 31st of March 1977. Liverpool City council had brought an action against the defendants, Leslie and Maureen Irwin who were tenants in a 15-story block, owned by the plaintiff. It was located on Hai Heights, in the district of Everton, Liverpool. The defendants occupied a maisonette on the 9th and 10th floors of the building. The contract of tenancy had been a form, which basically were conditions of tenancy that set out obligations of the tenants and none of the landlord. The form did not contain the signature of the Landlord, only the tenants signed, Therefore this can be referred to as an incomplete or one-sided contract. This lacuna in the “tenancy document” is what invites the courts to fill in the blanks in determining the intentions of the parties, and then imply terms without which the contract would fail. Thus, the courts imply terms to give business efficacy to the contract. There are a few other tests that have been put forward for why a court would want to imply terms into a contract that is incomplete, or one that is complete but necessarily needs the input of the courts to even out the rights and obligations of both parties. Such that no one side bears the hazards, losses or gains of the transaction. The landlord brought an action for possession to the county court, when the defendants discontinued paying their rent. The tenants counterclaimed for nominal damages. Claiming that the plaintiffs were in breach of section 32(1) of the Housing Act 1961, to keep in “proper working order” installations in the “dwelling house”, the implied covenant to maintain common parts in the possession of the landlord viz the lighting, the stairs, the lifts, the rubbish chutes built into the apartment building and also, quiet enjoyment which they were to be entitled to in any tenancy agreement. The court did an inspection of the premises and found it in a deplorable condition. The court had no controversy in awarding nominal damages to the defendants as the counter claim succeeded on all grounds stated. The landlord was granted possession but told to pay the nominal damages of £10. The Liverpool City Council appealed to the court of appeal, contending that they were not under any contractual obligation to maintain and repair common parts, not in breach of any statutory laws in section 32(1) of the housing act and not in breach of the tenants implied right to quiet enjoyment. The appeal was allowed, and the court found that the plaintiff was not in breach of section 32(1) and that there was no contractual obligation to keep common parts in repair. The court was also of the opinion that to imply such a term was not reasonably necessary to effect business efficacy of the contract. Lord Denning was the dissenting judge. He felt the test should be what a reasonable man would do. Had the plaintiff taken reasonable steps to see that the common parts were maintained or repaired? Denning along with other justices found that the plaintiff was not in breach of this. The Irwin’s went ahead to appeal this judgment in the House of Lords contending that the landlord had an “absolute” obligation with regard to the common parts to maintain and repair. Also the Irwin’s contended that the landlord was in breach of section32 (1) of the housing act, as, there was a cistern in the house of the Irwin’s which would flood when flushed. The Irwin’s contended that this system cannot be construed to be in “proper working order. At the trial the issues were many and varied but the ones that stand out are as follows: - •Landlord brings action for possession on grounds of non-payment of rent. •Tenants bring counter-claim for nominal damages for the utter neglect of the building by the council. The tenants continued that the rubbish chutes were blocked, the stairs were not lit and the lifts were not in working...
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