Case Law On Disrepair Damages
Ahmed v Southwark LBC ( 999) HLR 28 , CA
Arbitration tribunal could not revisit decision on liability when later assessing damages The council’s tenancy agreement provided that disputes about alleged breaches of the agreement could be referred to an arbitration tribunal operated by the council.
In 1991 tenants complained about disrepair to the bedroom, which comprised an area above the window that needed replastering, defects to the window and condensation dampness. In 1995 the tribunal ordered the authority to rectify all defects within 28 days.
The council failed to do this. The tenants applied for compensation in the county court for the delays in carrying out repairs. The application was remitted to the tribunal. The tribunal awarded compensation for the disrepair to the window, but decided that the council had not been in breach of the covenant in respect of condensation dampness.
The Court of Appeal allowed the tenants’ appeal. At the second hearing the tribunal could not go behind the finding at the first hearing that the council had been in breach of contract and find that there was no breach.
At the second hearing the tribunal was simply concerned with assessing
the compensation which was due as a consequence of the breach.
Berryman v Hounslow LBC ( 998) 0 HLR 7, CA Council’s failure to maintain lift did not make it liable for tenant’s injury on stairs
In breach of an express covenant, the council failed to maintain the lifts in an 18-storey block of flats. As a result, the lifts broke down and were immobilised.
The plaintiff tenant was forced to use the stairs and stumbled and fell, suffering serious personal injury. She was awarded damages of over £25,000.
The Court of Appeal allowed the council’s appeal on liability. The breach of covenant had immobilised the lift which was, accordingly, ‘safe’. The stairs were ‘safe’.
The plaintiff’s stumbling and falling on the stairs was not a reasonably foreseeable consequence of the breach of covenant in respect of the lift. Stairs are an ordinary feature of life and there is no more than a bare possibility of extra or added risk of injury in climbing stairs.
Davies v Peterson ( 989) 2 HLR ; [ 989] 0 EG 0, CA Award of damages was ‘little more than nominal’ and increased on appeal
The landlord brought possession proceedings. The tenant not only defended these claims (unsuccessfully), but also counterclaimed for damages for breach of repairing obligations.
HHJ Lipfriend, sitting at Westminster County Court, awarded damages of £858, mainly in respect of special damages, but with an award of £250 for discomfort, anxiety and inconvenience.
Although there were few specific findings relating to this, it was clear ‘to a limited extent in point of time that one of the bedrooms and the living room of this house were uninhabitable because of damp’.
This state ‘extended over a period of at least 12 months’. In the Court of Appeal, Russell LJ stated that in 1988 ‘the sum of £250 must … be regarded, when awarded by way of compensation for inconvenience, anxiety and discomfort, as little more than nominal’.
He did not regard it as a case in which nominal damages were appropriate and, although recognising that the Court of Appeal will not interfere with an award of damages unless it is wholly out of keeping with established authority, increased the award of general damages from £250 to £1,000. He stated; It is plain that in this day and age the courts are prepared to award substantial sums to tenants who are the victims of defaulting landlords where disrepair occurs.