The recent case of Moorjani v Durban Estates Ltd EWCA Civ 1252 clarifies the principles to be applied by the court when awarding damages to tenants and leaseholders who have succeeded in a claim for disrepair.
The respondent was the freeholder/landlord of the building in which Mr Moorjani’s flat was located. After purchasing the flat, Mr Moorjani decided to refurbish it before moving in and during this time he lived with his sister. The 150 year lease had a completely unexceptional repairing and insuring covenant on the part of the landlord. Before Mr Moorjani had completed refurbishing the flat in 2005 there was a leak from the flat above which caused serious damage to his flat. Separately, the landlord was found to be in breach of its repairing obligation for the common parts, which were "dilapidated, shabby and dingy”.
Mr Moorjani pursued a claim against his landlord for loss of rental income of the flat and general damages in respect of the disrepair both of his own flat and of the common parts between 2005 and 2011. The key issue in the first instance was that Mr Moorjani was not in occupation of his flat during the relevant period of disrepair and, consequently, the trial judge found that he was not entitled to general damages arising from the disrepair.
Mr Moorjani was granted permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal which held that the trial judge had been wrong to refuse to award general damages for the periods in which the appellant had not been living in the property.
The Court of Appeal held that the landlord’s obligations were fundamentally contractual in nature and that it was not fatal to the claim for general damages that Mr Moorjani was not in occupation of the premises so as personally to suffer the inconvenience, discomfort or distress caused by the disrepair.
Furthermore, the Court of Appeal agreed with the County Court Judge that Mr Moorjani was entitled to claim general damages for the disrepair to the common parts. Briggs LJ considered that the award was on the low side (£1,500 for three years which was the equivalent of 1-2% notional reduction of the rental value of the property) but he did not amend this.