Liverpool City Council v Irwin [1977] AC 239

Landlord and tenant; whether implied obligation on landlord to repair common parts


The Irwins were council tenants of a flat in a high rise building owned by Liverpool City Council (LCC). They withheld their rent in protest regarding conditions in the common parts and in their maisonette. The conditions included defective lifts, unlit staircases and an overflowing water cistern. LCC sought possession, and the Irwins counterclaimed for breach of duty to maintain the common parts of the building.


LCC denied the existence of a duty because there was no formal written tenancy agreement in place containing a term regarding a duty to maintain the common parts. As there was only a document detailing the obligations of the tenants under the agreement, LCC contended there were no obligations incumbent upon them in relation to the common parts. The Irwins argued that where a tenancy agreement is silent as to the maintenance of the common parts of a multi storey tower block, there is an implied term that the landlord should maintain them. The tenants argued the contract would be wholly unreasonable without such a term and, therefore, the duty should be implied into the tenancy agreement.


The tenancy agreement was held to be incomplete because it only contained unilateral obligations of the tenants. Where a demise is silent as to the maintenance of the common parts, there is an implied term that the landlord should take reasonable steps to keep the common parts in a state of repair. The council had discharged their duty in this case, however, because they had taken reasonable steps to maintain the common parts, and it was incessant vandalism despite LCC’s considerable efforts, which caused the poor conditions of the common parts.