Quiet enjoyment: Southwark LBC v Long

In Southwark LBC v Long ([2002] EWCA Civ. 403, CA (Eng)) S had granted L a lease of a flat in a block of flats. There was a communal rubbish bin. Residents could either put rubbish in the bin or into a chute leading to it from their floor. S agreed to ‘take all reasonable steps to keep the estate and common parts clean and tidy.’ In fact, the bin was often full. The area was smelly and there had been maggot infestations. The rubbish chutes were not big enough so residents had to bang them to force their rubbish down. This was noisy and was often done late at night. The English Court of Appeal found that S was in breach of its covenant. Handing over the operation of the system of refuse collection to contractors did not amount to taking all reasonable steps unless there was a proper system for monitoring the performance of the contractors. Nor was it enough simply to remind residents not to use the refuse chutes outside certain hours. This did not satisfy the requirement to take all reasonable steps. While the fact that this was low cost public housing was a relevant component of the factual matrix to be borne in mind when interpreting the covenant, there was no room for compromise on basic standards of cleanliness. The cost-effectivess of a proposed measure was relevant to an assessment of whether it was a reasonable step.

On the covenant for quiet enjoyment, this case was indistinguishable from Southwark LBC v Mills. The state of the facilities and the use of them was as originally contemplated so that there was no breach of the covenant.

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