Statutory Liability for Repairs

The Court of Appeal has considered whether an intermediate landlord (K) was in breach of his implied statutory covenant to keep the structure and exterior of a dwelling-house in repair under section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.

K had sublet his second floor flat to E under an assured shorthold tenancy. E tripped and injured himself on some uneven paving when taking rubbish out to the communal bins. Under the terms of the headlease, the freeholder was responsible for keeping the communal areas in good condition, subject to being given notice of the defect. Neither the intermediate landlord nor the freeholder had received notice of any defect.

The Court of Appeal held that the intermediate landlord was in breach of his implied statutory obligation to repair even though he had received no notification of the uneven paving. As K had a legal easement over the front hall, the paved pathway formed part of the exterior of the front hall in which K had an estate or interest for the purposes of section 11(1A). Therefore, the implied repairing covenant applied to the paved area.

This decision will be of concern to buy-to-let and other intermediate landlords, who may unexpectedly find themselves liable for repairs to communal areas, even though the head landlord is responsible for their upkeep and they have no notice of any defect. (Edwards v Kumarasamy [2015] EWCA Civ 20.)