Landmark case ruling now means that landlords and lettings agents have added responsibilities on repairs of their properties.
It has always been widely accepted by landlords and lettings agents that they are not liable to carry out repairs on outside areas of their tenants’ accommodation; this includes common halls, pathways and gardens and that repairs are carried out when their tenants inform them of a problem.
Now this is no longer the case due to a Court of Appeal ruling on the Edwards vs. Kumarasamy case.
In Section 11 of the Landlords and Tenant Act 1985, the landlord has a legal duty to ensure that the rented ‘home’ of the tenant(s) and its exterior are maintained in a good and safe state.
However in the case the tenant, Mr. Edwards who lived in a flat owned by landlord Mr. Kumarasamy, fell over a paving stone that was not level and was injured. This happened when Edwards went outside to put his rubbish in the common area for the dust bins and car park.
He sued the landlord for damages and the case examined whether the landlord should pay compensation.
Section 11 of the Landlords and Tenants Act, 1985 states that the landlord or letting agent has to carry out repairs on any property including the exterior i.e. ‘estate or interest’. The landlord Mr. Kumarasamy was only a leaseholder of the flat and neither the block of flats nor the communal exterior area were owned by him.
But within his lease he had a legal right of access to the path (easement) where the injury to Mr. Edwards occurred. The Court decided that this falls within the Section 11 requirements and therefore the landlord had a duty to make sure the outside was well maintained and safe.
Although in case law it does say that the tenants have to inform lettings agents or landlords of needed repairs to the property, the Court of Appeal decided that Section 11 does not state that notification by a tenant is a requirement. As case law implies that in normal situations where repairs need to be carried out inside the property, the landlord/lettings agent will see the problems first hand. The Court said that the landlord did have access to the outside communal areas and therefore could have seen the problem himself without having to be told about the uneven paving stone.
The ruling on the case now means that landlords are liable to pay compensation even in areas outside the property that they do not own. Lettings agents also need to be aware of this as it is their duty to their client that they are told about the new levels of responsibility. These areas include any area that the landlord has a right of access to, a private drive for the property and communal areas in blocks of flats etc.
Those landlords who have their own freeholder or headlessor should quickly contact them so that all areas in and around the property are properly repaired, it could be that local authorities may be intervene if necessary, using the powers granted under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS).
Lettings agents also have the responsibility to inspect areas outside the property that has common areas, paths and driveways etc. Tenants do not have to report any problems so all landlords and lettings agents must be on the alert for likely problems and take the necessary actions.
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