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New Legal Ruling On Landlord Repair Responsibilities


Tuesday, March 3, 2015
Landlord Repair Responsibilities Change Following Landmark Legal Ruling

Landlord Repair Responsibilities Change Following Landmark Legal Ruling

Landlord Repair Responsibilities Change
Following Landmark Legal Ruling

There are often complaints from tenants that landlords or their letting agents don’t deal with rental property repair problems properly, causing upset and distress for tenants and stress and anguish for landlords.

Even with comprehensive Landlord Buildings Insurance policies in place, there is still a legal obligation for UK private rented sector, (PRS), landlords (or their appointed letting agents) to keep the structure and exterior of rented properties in a good state of repair, covered by Section 11 of the Landlord & Tenant Act (1985).

However, an immediate change to current housing legislation concerns the landmark legal decision recently made in the Samuel Edwards v. Baladas Kumarasamy case, where the Court Of Appeal judge, Lord Justice Lewison ruled that:

  • Tenants do not need to give landlords or their appointed letting agent’s notice of repair issues, if the problem lies outside their rented property.
  • The repairing covenants in Section 11 of the Landlord & Tenant Act (1985) also apply to common areas even if the landlord does not own or control them, provided the landlord or the tenant have a legal right to use them.

The Edwards v. Kumarasamy court of appeal decision could have serious consequences for all UK PRS landlords and letting agents with regard to liability for repairs in UK private rented sector properties.UK Landlords and letting agents usually operate with the assumption that:

  • Landlords are not liable to keep external areas of rental properties such as gardens, communal halls and pathways, in a good state of repair, often passing this responsibility on to tenants.
  • Landlords are not liable to conduct repairs until they have been properly notified of any repair issue by the current tenants.

However, it would appear that this situation has now been overruled by Lord Justice Lewison’s landmark legal ruling in the Edwards v Kumarasamy case.

In the legal case, Mr Samuel Edwards rented a flat from Mr Baladas Kumarasamy, with a number of rights granted to him under the terms of the tenancy, including the right to use the entrance hall, lift and staircases giving access to the flat; the right to use an access road and parking space and the right to use the Bin Store (defined as part of the Communal Areas) and other facilities provided by the landlord.

Regulations forming part of the lease require all domestic rubbish to be placed in the Bin Store. The owners of the block also covenanted to keep the Communal Areas in good and substantial repair, and to keep passageways and footpaths forming part of the building in good order and condition; but a clause in the head lease restricts their liability to cases in which the tenant has given notice of the defect and the lease holder has had a reasonable opportunity to remedy the defect.

Mr Edwards was injured after tripping on an uneven path leading the property’s communal bins and car park and in turn sued Mr Kumarasamy for compensation. Lord Justice Lewison examined the landlord’s liability under such circumstances at the Court of Appeal:

  • Section 11 of the Landlord & Tenant Act (1985), states that landlord liability applies to the structure and exterior of rented properties and also to any area which the landlord has an “estate or interest”.

In this case Mr Kumarasamy was merely a long term leaseholder of the flat rented by Mr Edwards and did not own the whole block or the exterior area.

However under the terms of his lease, Mr Kumarasamy, had a legal right of access to the path where Mr Edwards had his accident. Therefore, the Court decided that this complied with Section 11 requirements, with Lord Justice Lewison ruling that the landlord had an obligation to ensure that any area to which the landlord had an estate or interest was kept in repair.

Landlord Buildings Insurance available through the UK’s market leading specialist suppliers to the UK lettings industry, Legal 4 Landlords, includes Property Owners Liability cover up to £2,000,000 (GBP) as standard, with up to £5 Million (GBP) available as an optional extra.

There was case law in effect which said that the landlord should be notified about potential hazards, but in this case, the Court of Appeal judge ruled that Section 11 does not actually state that notice is required. The judge ruled that this was only implied in case law in circumstances where the disrepair was inside rented property, and so was where the landlord would not normally see it.

However, in this case, the landlord was able to access the exterior path himself and so could ensure it was kept in repair without needing to be told about it first.

The real significance of this case for UK landlords and letting agents means that landlords can be sued in respect of areas of the property which they do not own themselves. For example

  • A private drive serving a property over which the landlord has a right of access, or
  • Common areas of a block of flats

This means that from now on, landlords will need to be pro-active in ensuring that such common areas are kept in a proper state of repair and letting agents will need to widen the scope of their periodic rental property inspections to include paths, communal areas and the like, and it would be very wise for landlords to check the scope of their Landlord Buildings Insurance protection.

Because of this new landmark ruling there is now no immediate obligation for tenants to report any damage that occurs in rented properties, meaning that landlords and their appointed letting agents will have to be even more vigilant in order to identify potential problems and get them sorted out quickly.

 


This was written by Mike Clarke. Posted on at 11:30 am. Filed under Insurance. Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow comments here with the RSS feed. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.