Implied obligation to use property in a tenantlike manner

In Warren v Keen ([1954] 1 Q.B. 15, CA (Eng)) a landlord had to spend money to repair defective internal and external walls where the disrepair was the result of fair wear and tear. The landlord sought to recover the cost from a weekly tenant on the basis that periodic tenants are under a duty to keep property wind and watertight. The landlord failed both because it was denied that weekly tenants were under any such duty and because, anyway, even such a duty could not cover the damage in this case.

Denning L.J. said:

‘Apart from express contract, a tenant owes no duty to the landlord to keep the premises in repair. The only duty of the tenant is to use the premises in a husbandlike, or what is the same thing, a tenantlike manner … But what does “to use the premises in a tenantlike manner” mean? It can, I think, best be shown by some illustrations. The tenant must take proper care of the place. He must, if he is going away for the winter, turn off the water and empty the boiler. He must clean the chimneys, when necessary, and also the windows. He must mend the electric light when it fuses. He must unstop the sink when it is blocked by his waste. In short, he must do the little jobs about the place which a reasonable tenant would do. In addition, he must, of course, not damage the house, wilfully or negligently; and he must see that his family and guests do not damage it: and if they do, he must repair it. But apart from such things, if the house falls into disrepair through fair wear and tear or lapse of time, or for any reason not caused by him, then the tenant is not liable to repair it.’ (20)


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