Controversial ruling overturned by Supreme Court after tenant’s fall outside block

Posted: 7/8/2016

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The Supreme Court has overturned an earlier judgment by the Court of Appeal in an important case for the lettings market.

In Edwards v Kumarasemy the tenant tripped on a path outside the block of flats where he lived on the second floor, injuring his knee.

The landlord did not own the path and did not own the block. However, the landlord did own a leasehold flat within it and the path was the means of access to the block. The landlord was unaware that the path might have been uneven.

The tenant took a disrepair claim under Section 111 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 and, at the Court of Appeal, won his case in February.

The Court of Appeal ruled that even if a landlord was not the owner of a block of flats, the landlord could nevertheless be held liable for defects in the external common parts such as pathways.

The case reversed the view that repairing obligations only apply to what the landlord actually rents out to the tenant, and also that the landlord cannot be held liable if they have not been notified of the need for a repair.

However, the Supreme Court has now overturned the Court of Appeal, ruling that repairing obligations only extend to the structure and exterior of the building itself.

It also ruled that where the landlord of a leasehold property within a block has repairing obligations in relation to common parts within the building, the obligation is only triggered once the landlord has had notice of any disrepair.

Douglas Rhodes, associate at law firm Trowers & Hamlins, said landlords of leasehold flats in blocks would be breathing a sigh of relief.

He said: “The Court of Appeal’s judgment left buy-to-let and other intermediate landlords facing the risk of potential claims for personal injury or other damages caused by defects to external common parts that the intermediate landlord may have had no knowledge or notice of.

“The Supreme Court’s decision strikes a sensible balance, limiting the risk of such claims to common parts within the meaning of the structure and exterior of the building in its natural sense, and only to situations where the intermediate landlord has notice of the disrepair.”

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