Robbins v Jones (1863) 15 CBNS 221
Landlord and tenant; duty of landlord to maintain premises during the term
Houses were erected adjacent to a new road built at a high level to provide access to a bridge over the Thames. Between the houses and the road was a public footway which was covered with flagging. The flagging became weakened and gave way because of the large numbers of people using it, causing Mr Robbins to fall some 30 feet to his death. His widow brought an action against the landlord of the premises for failing to keep it in good repair.
Mrs Robbins claimed that as the owner of the land, Jones was under a duty to keep the premises in good repair so that members of the public who were lawfully using a public footway could pass in safety. She asserted Jones wrongfully allowed the premises to continue into decay and dilapidation rendering it unsafe for the public to use the footway. Further, knowing the premises to be in an unsafe condition, he demised the premises to tenants, thereby allowing the dangerous state of affairs to continue. Jones claimed he was under no duty to maintain premises which he had let out to tenants. He contended when he was in possession of the premises they were not in a dangerous condition and, Mr Robbins had been trespassing at the time of the accident.
Mrs Robbins’ claim was unsuccessful. A landlord who lets premises in a state of disrepair or in a dangerous condition, is not responsible for accidents which cause injury to the tenant’s guests or customers during the tenancy. It is not unlawful to let a tumbledown house, and it is for the tenant and not the landlord to maintain the premises during the term.
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