Liverpool City Council v Irwin

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Liverpool City Council v Irwin
View from Everton Park 2003.jpg
Court House of Lords
Citation(s) [1976] UKHL 1, [1977] AC 239
Case history
Prior action(s) [1976] QB 319
Implied terms

Liverpool City Council v Irwin [1976] UKHL 1 is a leading English contract law case, concerning the basis on which courts may imply terms into contracts.


There was a fifteen storey tower block known as ‘the Piggeries’ in Everton, Liverpool. It had seventy units, a stairwell, two lifts, and a rubbish chute. Mr and Mrs Irwin were tenants from July 1966. The common parts were vandalised, the lifts did not work, the stair lights failed, the chute was blocked, lavatory cisterns blocked and overflowed. The tenants, conducting a "rent strike", refused to pay rent. In an action by the council to eject them, they counterclaimed that the council was in breach of a duty to keep the common parts of the estates in decent repair.


Court of Appeal[edit]

Lord Denning MR dissented from Roskill LJ and Ormrod LJ and argued that a contractual term can be implied when it is ‘reasonable’. After The Moorcock, Reigate and Shirlaw, he mentioned the ‘stacks’ of cases where terms are implied.

House of Lords[edit]

Lord Wilberforce held it was a necessary term of living on an estate that landlords keep stairwells in order. However tenants also had a duty of reasonable care and on the facts the council was not in breach of its obligations. Applying the business efficacy or the officious bystander test would not result in the term’s implication, but asking what the relationship required would.

Lord Cross' judgment went as follows.

See also[edit]

Implication in fact
Implication in law



  • E Peden (2001) 117 LQR 459