September 1948

Liability for repairs

A clause in the Public Health Act, which places liability for repairs to a property on the owner’s agent, rather than the owner himself, was described by a solicitor at Dudley Magistrates Court recently as “fantastic and unjust”.

The Dudley Corporation sought legal notices for repairs to 11 houses in Campbell Street and Constitution Hill, Dudley, against Horace Whitehouse, estate agent of 246A, Dudley Road, Brades Village, Oldbury.

Appearing for Mr Whitehouse, Mr J Sillitoe said he had been forced to the conclusion that the magistrates were left with no discretion in the matter.

Repairs to some houses, he said, became necessary two years ago, and Mr Whitehouse engaged a contractor to do the work. The houses were owned by two brothers, one of whom saw the contractor at the property and became so obstructive that the repairs were stopped.

Mr Whitehouse notified the brothers that he declined to act further as their agent, but eventually he was persuaded to continue, and repairs amounting to £130 were carried out.

The owners would not reimburse Mr Whitehouse, and he had to deduct the cost of the repairs from the rents he collected.

Mr Whitehouse was now left in a quandary, as he had heard that the owners were thinking of selling the property, and if orders for repairs were made against him, he might find himself committed to an outlay of £500 without recompense.

For the Dudley Corporation, Mr JA Berry admitted that the case was in many ways “awkward and artificial”.

The magistrates decided to adjourn the case for two months on an understanding by Mr Whitehouse that the defects would be repaired in that period.