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Published: Fri, 12 Oct 2018
Liverpool County Council v Irwin  AC 239, HL
Implying a term including an obligation on the part of a council where tenancy agreement did not expressly stipulate any obligation
Liverpool City Council owned a block of flats in Everton, Liverpool, called “The Piggeries”. The defendant was a tenant in one of those flats. The common parts of those flats had fallen into disrepair and had also been vandalised; in addition the lifts in the building did not function, there were no lights on the stairs, the lavatory cisterns were blocked, as was the chute, and the cisterns also overflowed. The tenants organised to carry out a rent strike, refusing to pay rent until those issues were addressed by Liverpool City Council. The defendant took part in that strike. The Council started proceedings to evict the defendant for refusing to pay her rent. The defendant however started a counter claim against the Council for breach of its obligation to repair the communal properties. The tenancy agreement between the defendant and the council did not, however, state that the Council had any such obligation. No other obligations were imposed on the Council either, with the agreement imposing obligations solely on the tenant. The defendant asserted that the court should imply a term into the contract that the Council had a duty to repair the common parts of the building.
The issue in this case was whether it was possible to imply a term into the contract as the defendant was asking, even where the contract did not specifically impose any obligations on the Council. A further issue was whether the Council would be in breach of that duty even if it existed.
It was held that it was possible to imply such a term into the contract, but that the Council was not in any event guilty of breaching it as the damage had been carried out by vandals. The residents also had a duty of care.
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