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Perera v Vandiyar [1953] 1 All ER 1109

Landlord and tenant; whether cutting off gas and electricity is a breach of covenant

Facts

Perera was the tenant of two rooms in a house owned by Vandiyar, where he lived with his wife and two-year old child. Vandiyar cut off the gas and electricity supply to the rooms and prevented Perera from switching the supply back on. After two days of discomfort, Perera left the premises and returned five days later when the county court ordered the supply be restored. Perera was awarded damages for breach of contract and punitive damages on the basis that Vandiyar’s acts had amounted to a malicious tort. Vandiyar appealed.

Issues

Perera contended that cutting off the gas and electricity supply amounted to a tort of eviction, because his continued occupation of the premises became impossible without heating and lighting. He also argued having the utility supplies cut off amounted to a breach of the landlord’s covenant to allow the tenant to enjoy quiet enjoyment of the premises. Vandiyar maintained he had cut the gas and electricity supplies because he had believed the tenant and his family were going on holiday. He denied his actions were designed to force the eviction of the tenant, and nor did they amount to a breach of covenant.

Held

Cutting off the gas and electricity supply amounted to a breach of contract and Perera was, therefore, entitled to damages for breach of covenant. The landlord’s actions, however, did not amount to a tort because there had been no direct interference with the leasehold premises, and so there had been no direct trespass. Deliberate, severe breach of Vandiyar’s obligations as a landlord entitled Perera to damages for breach of contract, but there was no liability in tort.


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