‘Tenantable repair”

The English Court of Appeal considered the meaning of a covenant to keep property in ‘tenantable repair’ in Proudfoot v Hart ((1890) L.R. 25 Q.B.D. 42, CA (Eng)). While the courts generally seem not to give much weight to qualifying words such as ‘tenantable’, the approach taken was to consider whether a likely prospective tenant of the property would be put off by any deterioration of its fabric (including the state of decoration). This seems to be a dimension that is added by the word ‘tenantable’. Lopes LJ offered this definition of the phrase:

‘[“Good tenantable repair”] appears to me to mean such repair as, having regard to the age, character, and locality of the house, would make it reasonable fit for the occupation of a reasonably-minded tenant of the class who would be likely to take it.’ (at 55).

As Anstruther Gough Calthorpe v McOscar later explained, this definition needs to be carefully understood. It does not mean that the standard of repair required by the covenant (as originally intended by the parties) is reduced if the character of the area later declines. Perhaps one could say that ‘tenantable’ adds to, rather than subtracts from, the basic covenant to repair.

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