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Lee v Leeds CC; Ratcliffe and Others v Sandwell MBC [2002] EWCA Civ 6

Landlord’s obligations with regards to ensuring that a property is fit for human habitation

Facts

Both claimants were tenants of local authorities under secure tenancies. In both circumstances, the claimant’s properties suffered from condensation, damp and mould growth causing the properties to be prejudicial to the health of the occupants. It was considered that the cause of this problem was in the construction and design of the properties, there being a lack of adequate heating, ventilation or insulation. Both tenancy agreements contained an express clause requiring the council landlord to keep in good repair the structure of the building. It was acknowledged that this express clause reflected the clause implied by section 11(1) of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985. The claimants sought an order requiring the defendants to make repairs to the properties rectifying the defects which caused the damp problems. In addition to the 1995 Act, the claimants relied on section 4 of the Defective Premises Act 1972. The claims were dismissed on the basis that the landlord’s obligations lay in rectifying matters of disrepair only, this term did not extend to remedying design defects. The claimants appealed on this point and on the basis that section 11 of the 1985 Act should be read in conjunction with Article 8 (the right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (1950).

Issue

The issues in this context related to whether a landlord was obliged to make good faults in a building that related to the design of the building on the basis that these fell within the definition of disrepair and/or whether this obligation implied a term into the lease agreement that rented properties should be fit for human habitation.

Held

The appeal was denied. (1) The obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights were not absolute and required a balance to be struck between the needs of the individual and the council’s resources. (2) The requirements of section 11 of the 1985 Act did not extend to rectifying design defects. (3) Design faults were not relevant defects for the purposes of section 4 of the 1972 Act and therefore, this section did not give rise to a duty on the part of the council.


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