Supreme Court decides important disrepair appeal
Is your flat affected by a leak from an upstairs flat within your block? Or perhaps there are problems within the communal areas of the block where you live that your landlord is refusing to deal with? The Supreme Court last week delivered a judgement which provides important guidance to tenants.
In Edwards v Kumarasamy  UKSC 40, Mr Edwards held an assured shorthold tenancy from Mr Kumarasamy of a second floor flat within a block of flats in Runcorn. The building has a main front door with a paved area leading to a car park and communal dustbins. In July 2010, Mr Edwards was taking his rubbish to the dustbins when he tripped over an uneven paving stone on the paved area and suffered damage to his hand and knee. Mr Edwards then sued Mr Kumarasamy for breach of s.11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 by failing to keep the paved area in repair. After initially winning his appeal in the County Court, the case was successively appealed until the Court of Appeal found in Mr Edwards’s favour. The Supreme Court then reversed the Court of Appeal’s decision and found for the landlord.
Why is the decision significant?
Firstly, it had been assumed that any area in which the landlord still has an interest, including a right of way, is required to be kept in repair by the landlord. But the Supreme Court disagreed with the Court of Appeal’s finding that the words ‘exterior of the dwelling-house’ contained in s.11(1)(a) of the Act included the paved area. Even though the landlord had an interest in the interior hall, this did not mean the duty to repair extended to the area on the other side of the front door.
Secondly, it had been believed that an area in disrepair which lay outside the tenant’s possession and control but within the landlord’s control absolved the tenant of responsibility to notify the landlord of the problem. The Supreme Court held that generally speaking, the tenant is in a better position than the landlord to assess any problems that might arise on the common parts, since the tenant has acquired from the landlord the right to use them. This means there is a duty on the tenant to notify the landlord in cases similar to Mr Edwards’.
The notice issue is not 100% clear cut and the safest course of action for any residential tenant, in order to start the clock running on the landlord’s repairing duty, will be to ensure that the landlord is notified at the earliest possible opportunity of any disrepair, whether this is present inside or outside the home.
If you are affected by any issues in this article, please contact our housing team on 020 7426 0400 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.