Watch your step! Residential Landlords’ liability to repair may be wider than expected

20 February, 2015

As most landlords will be aware, there is an implied covenant in every short-term residential lease that the landlord must keep the structure and exterior of the property in good repair. However, liability for disrepair does not usually arise until the landlord is made aware of the defect.

However, the recent Court of Appeal case of Edwards v Kumarasamy shows that the landlord’s liability is wider than expected.

In this case the landlord owned a long lease of a flat in an apartment block and there was a paved pathway outside that linked the front hall of the block with the communal bins.

The landlord’s long lease gave it rights to use areas of the main property such as the front hall, car parking space and bin store (not including the pathway) and made the upkeep of the communal areas the responsibility of the building owner, subject to notice of any defects.

The landlord’s tenant tripped and injured himself on some uneven paving on the pathway when he was taking out his rubbish. Neither the building owner nor the landlord had previously been given notice of the defect.

The Court of Appeal concluded that the landlord’s implied covenant to repair extended to cover the pathway. The pathway was deemed to form part of the “structure or exterior” of the part of the building in which the landlord had an estate or interest even though the landlord did not own or control this area. The pathway was part of the essential means of access to the front hall and so formed part of the exterior of the front hall that the landlord and the tenant had a right to use. However, as the pathway was not in the demise of the property, the requirement for notice of the defect did not apply.

It was held that the landlord was liable for the injuries sustained by the tenant.

This creates an unfortunate situation for landlords, as even if they are not responsible for the upkeep of communal areas, they may find themselves liable for repairs even with no notice of any defect.

For a full case report click here: Simon Jones, Associate