Landlords Liability for an Unsafe Staircase

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The Court of Appeal has found, in the case of Sternbaum v Dhesi [2016] EWCA Civ 155, that a landlord was not liable when one of its tenants fell down a steep staircase without a handrail or banister.

The tenant sued the landlord in negligence and for breach of section 4 of the Defective Premises Act 1972. The tenancy agreement stated that the landlord should keep in repair the structure and exterior of the premises and required that the tenant permit the landlord to enter the premises for the purposes of inspection and repair.

At the beginning of the tenancy there was no handrail or banister fitted but there were indications that one might have been removed at some stage in the property’s history.

The Court of Appeal considered whether the property was in disrepair. They followed the decision in Alker v Collingwood Housing Association [2007] 1 WLR 2230 CA by stating that the duty to repair and maintain could not be equated with a duty to make safe. The court commented that the staircase was, by modern standards, both defective and hazardous but could not be considered as being in disrepair.

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