• In the case of Coatsworth v Johnson 1886 54 it 520, it was held that an equitable lease is specifically enforceable only if the lessee has not breached any terms of the lease contract and came with “clean hands’ to equity.
  •  The equitable maxim “he who comes into equity must come with clean hands” arose from this case.

Facts of the Case

  • A tenant (C) entered into a 21-year lease with the landlord.
  • After some time, C failed to pay the rent and D ousted him as he believed him to be nothing more than a tenant at will.
  • As a result, C applied to the court seeking a result of specific performance.

Issues in Coatsworth v Johnson 1886 54 LT 520

  • Could C order specific performance, claim damages considering he has fallen behind on rent.

Held by Court of Appeal

  • Appeal dismissed

Lord Esher MR

  • It was held that equity will only provide remedies if a claimant comes with clean hands. As C had failed to pay rent, this meant he could not have clean hands.
  • The court held that the lessee was not entitled to recover, he was in possession under an agreement for a lease of 21 years and paid no rent and was therefore only a tenant at will. As a result, the landlord was entitled to determine that tenancy, which was not subject to or controlled by s.14 of the Conveyancing Act 1881.