Supreme Court Ruling Has Significant Implications for Buy-to-Let Landlords
In May of this year, in a decision of huge significance to both landlords and tenants, the Supreme Court ruled that property owners have no liability for injury or other consequences arising from disrepairs on their property when they have no prior knowledge of those disrepairs.
The case in question was that of Edwards v Kumarasamy, in which Mr Edwards – who was sub-letting a second floor flat from his landlord, Mr Kumarasamy, with an assured shorthold tenancy – tripped over a paving slab whilst taking rubbish out to the apartment block’s bin-store. When the trip resulted in some personal injury, Mr Edwards sued his landlord for breach of section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 for injuries sustained whilst on his property. Under that law, a landlords’ legal obligation is to ensure that the “structure and exterior” of rented properties is in good repair, alongside any area in which the landlord can be said to have an “estate or interest”.
However, Mr Kumarasamy was not the owner of the property but a buy-to-let investor. This meant he was only leasing the flat, alongside the rights of access, on a long-term basis. He neither owned the block nor had a lease for the external area where Mr Edwards sustained his injury. Neither had he had notice of the problem with the paving. So Mr Kumarasamy defended the claim.
In February of this year, the Court of Appeal ruled that even in cases where a landlord was not the actual owner of an apartment block, that landlord could still be held accountable for defects in the property’s external common parts, which included pathways between different parts of the property. Consequently, Mr Edwards won his case.
The case reversed the previous view that obligations to repair could only be applied to that which is actually rented out to the tenant by the landlord, and also the view that the landlord cannot be liable if they have received no notice of the need to repair.
However, Mr Kumarasamy took his case to the Supreme Court, which has now overturned the ruling of the Court of Appeal, deciding that obligations to repair can only be extended to the structure and to the exterior of the building itself.
It also ruled that in cases where landlords of a leasehold property within an apartment block have obligations to repair in relation to common parts within the property, that obligation only comes into effect when the landlord in question has had specific notice on any disrepair.
This will have come as a great relief to other landlords in a similar position. The previous judgment by the Court of Appeal left buy-to-let landlords – and other intermediate landlords – facing considerable risk of potential personal injury claims caused by external common parts in states of disrepair about which they had no knowledge whatsoever. The decision of the Supreme Court, however, limits that risk to situations where the buy-to-let or intermediate landlord has been given notice of the disrepair.
If you have rented a property or looking to rent a property and want to know about any legal obligations to your tenants ,At HS Lawyers we can provide you with legal advice on both landlord and tenant matters. Our solicitors are qualified and can also guide you in any issues arising with local housing authorities, tenants, landlords , ownerships, repairs and many more. If you are looking to discuss any matter related to property being a landlord or tenant you can consult our expert team of landlord and tenant solicitors based in Birmingham, Wolverhampton or Peterborough. You can also consult us by filling in the form or book an appointment by calling us on 0121 525 2555.