…that if a disrepair claim reaches trial these days, then one of three options must be true:
a) there is a genuine and substantive issue of causation or liability (rare as hens teeth);
b) one or perhaps both of the parties are mad;
c) a combination of the above.
White v Quadrant Brownswood Tenants Co-op  EWCA Civ 239 [not on Bailii yet, but we’ve seen a transcript] was a permission to appeal hearing on the Defendant’s renewed application for permission. Once I’ve gone through the details, I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions as to which of the options, if any, applies here.
Mr White was the tenant of Quadrant Co-op (apparently the same Mr White involved in the possession claim by Quadrant that has an ongoing appeal in the High Court). Mr W had brought a disrepair claim. He was the tenant since 2001 of a split level ground floor and basement flat. He alleged damp to the flat between 2001 and 2007, with the main head of damages being damage caused by damp in a wardrobe which was attached to a wall on the right hand side of the basement bay window. Quadrant denied liability, saying that any damp was due to condensation due to tenant’s usage and/or a leak from the tenant’s washing machine.
Although there had been inspections and works during the period, including installation of new damp proof courses, Quadrant argued this did not show disrepair. The Landlord was not liable for the lack of a damp proof course, or for the subsequent installation of one (unless installed defectively, of course).
Litigation was conducted ‘enthusiastically’ (in Jackson LJ’s words) by both parties. A single joint expert, Mr Parrett, was appointed and inspected, albeit after the problems had apparently been resolved. Both parties put questions to the expert.
The matter went to trial at Central London County Court before HHJ Bailey.
The judge concluded that the defendant had liability in respect of two areas of dampness, which the judge did not regard as being unduly serious. He awarded £25.00 in respect of each of those matters, making a total sum of £50 general damages. The judge came to the conclusion that the claimant was not entitled to recover under section 4 of the Defective Premises Act 1972 compensation for damage to his clothing. The clothing in question had hung in the wardrobe.
The judge’s finding on costs is not recorded in this permission decision, although it is one topic of the full appeal. I understand that the order was that the Claimant pay £50 of the Defendant’s costs. If this is not correct, could someone involved let me know and I’ll put this right. (This looks like what might be described as a plague on both your houses judgment).
Both parties, enthusiasm undiminished (as per Jackson LJ), appealed. Mr W was granted permission to appeal on the ground that:
the dampness found by the judge in one of the areas, namely on the wall where the wardrobe was, had caused damage to his clothing and he was entitled to substantial damages in respect of that by virtue of the defendant’s breach of section 4 of the Defective Premises Act 1972.
Rimer LJ found that this was arguable.
Quadrant appealed against the costs order, which was granted permission on the papers, and against the Judge’s findings in respect of the two areas of dampness. This was refused and one area of damp was the subject of this renewed permission hearing. Quadrant argued
that the judge erred in finding that the defendant was liable for the dampness in the wall by the wardrobe. The judge held the defendant liable for that dampness because he concluded that a rainwater downpipe on the outside of that wall had been defective and dampness had come through from that source. Mr Carr, who appears today for the defendant, submits that the judge was not entitled to come to this conclusion on the evidence before him.
Quadrant pointed to evidence by a person who had fitted the wardrobe in 2005 and saw no damp. The mold on clothes was discovered in November 2006. There was no evidence before the Judge that the down pipe had been defective during this period.
Jackson LJ disagreed. He pointed to a part of the expert’s response to the second set of questions by the parties, where Mr Parrett said:
It should also be noted that there is a new section of plaster to the left hand front elevation wall which is almost full height of the wall. The area of new plaster corresponds to the location of the rainwater pipe externally. In the normal course of rising damp it would not be expected that dampness would reach the height of the new plaster to the left hand front wall which is approximately 2 metres above finished floor level internally. Therefore if the plaster had been replaced to this height because it was damp then that would suggest that the source of dampness must have originated from higher up the wall ie from the rainwater pipe.
The Judge was entitled to rely on this evidence and to find that the rainwater pipe was the cause of damp in this area. There was no realistic prospect that the Court of Appeal would reverse this finding.
Permission on this ground refused.
We await the full appeal hearing, apparently listed for April this year (unless we’ve got it confused with the possession appeal in the High Court again). I must also admit to being confused as to why this is in the Court of Appeal, rather than the High Court. Any info gratefully received.