Landlords’ Statutory Liability for Repairs to the Exterior of a Building
The Supreme Court considered, in the case of Edwards b Kumarasamy [2016 UKSC 40], whether the statutory repairing covenant in section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 applies to an intermediate landlord who was unaware of any defects in the communal area of a property.
The intermediate landlord had sublet his property to a tenant under an assured shorthold tenancy agreement. Under the terms of the head lease, the freeholder was responsible for keeping the communal areas in good condition, subject to being given notice of the defect. Neither the intermediate landlord nor the freeholder had received such a notice. The tenant tripped over an uneven paving stone and injured his hand and knee. He claimed that the intermediate landlord was liable for the injury.
The Court of Appeal held that the intermediate landlord was in breach of his statutory obligation. This was overturned by the Supreme Court on the basis that the paved area did not fall within the scope of the repairing obligation imposed by Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.
Although this particular decision was on the specific facts, the court considered wider circumstances in which a tenant has to give notice to a Landlord of disrepair. The leading judgment suggests that landlords who own entire buildings for residential purposes may not be able to require notice of disrepair, as they should be able to keep themselves more appraised of any repairs that are needed.
The Supreme Court’s decision puts buy-to-let owners in a more comfortable position. Under the Court of Appeal decision these landlords were at risk of being liable for repairs of communal areas, where they had no right to make repairs and no idea that the works were needed. It would still be good practice for all landlords to visit their properties occasionally to check for disrepair, rather than relying on their tenants for notice.