The case is Edwards – v- Kumarasamy in which the tenant, Mr Edwards, tripped over and injured himself on the path leading to bins at the rear of the block of flats he rented in. He made a claim against his landlord Mr Kumarasamy under section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 – the legislation that sets out the landlords repairing obligation to keep in repair and good order the structure and exterior of a property.
Mr Kumarasamy did not own the block of flats, or the path which was the means of access to the block of flats. Furthermore, he had no idea that the path was uneven, plus he had no legal obligation to repair the path as this obligation fell to the freeholder.
Somewhat surprisingly, the Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the tenant Mr Edwards saying that no notice is required for this repair as the Landlord could easily have seen the uneven path for himself and as the landlord had access to the path under his own lease, section 11 applied!
So in other words, even if a landlord did not own a block of flats, he could still be held liable for defects in the external common parts such as paths. This ruling overturned the hitherto previous held view that repairing obligations only applied to what the landlord actually rented to a tenant, and also a landlord cannot be held liable for a repair he had not been notified of.
The Supreme Court decided that repairing obligations only apply to the structure and exterior of the building itself. The path should not have been classed as part of the exterior of the building and notice should have been given by the tenant who was after all, he was the person with the easiest opportunity to view the path, not the landlord. Furthermore, the landlord had no right to sanction repairs anyway without the permission of the freeholder.
The Supreme Court went on to say that in cases where a landlord of a leasehold property within a block does have repairing obligations in relation to common parts; his obligation can only be triggered once he has been notified of any disrepair.
The Court of Appeals original ruling would have left landlords facing the risk of potential personal injury claims or other damages caused by defects to external common parts that the landlord may not have any knowledge of, or notice of.
Luckily the Supreme Court’s decision strikes a sensible balance and leaseholder landlords can breathe a huge sigh of relief.