Tenancy agreements: Landed with obligations?

The process of renting property is one that most of us will experience in our lives in one form or another. Unfortunately, however some of us will experience less luck than others, and may find ourselves in undesirable and unfortunate situations, either with poor and inadequate, or a complete lack of repairs to our rented homes.

 

At Express Solicitors within the Occupiers Liability department, we unfortunately see situations whereby these poor repairs and conditions lead to clients sustaining personal injury and financial loss. For example we have helped clients who have been injured by faulty floors, collapsing ceilings and dangerous electrical wiring. All issues whereby the council, housing association or landlord responsible for the property should have maintained the property to such a condition, whereby the circumstances for these accidents would not have occurred and preventing, very often, serious personal injury accidents.

To Let

There is a complex legal framework which sets out tenants legal rights in respect of every aspect of a tenancy agreement, however there are particular provisions which provide landlords of properties with an obligation to ensure that any property they let out meets certain safety requirements.

 

Obligations to keep a property in good repair may be expressly stated into a rental agreement or implied by statute. However it may be noted that often tenancy agreements are long and complicated documents where the obligations are often not to clear on the outset.

 

The main statutory provision is Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985. This provides a statutory obligation to ensure landlords keep the structure and exterior of a property in repair, keep in repair instillations in a property for the supply of water, gas and electricity including items such as basins, sinks and baths, and instillations providing heating to the dwelling property.

 

However, as is the case with any statute it has been the subject of close judicial scrutiny and interpretation. For example, case law has expanded the term of structure to include drains, gutters, external pipes and external and partition walls (Campden Hill Towers Limited V Gardner (1976) 13 HLR 64, CA), internal plaster (Grand V Gill [2011] EWCA Civ 554) and roofing (Douglas-Scott V Scorgie (1984) 13 HLR 97, CA) to name but a few examples.

Furthermore Section 4 of the Defective Premises Act 1972 further outlines a landlord’s duty of care owed to tenants. Section 4 states to summarise, that where premises are let under a tenancy agreement, this puts the landlord at on obligation to the tenant for the maintenance and repair of the premises. In addition, that the landlord owes a duty to all persons who might reasonably be expected to be affected by defects in the state of premises, ensuring those persons are kept reasonably safe from personal injury and damage to their personal property.

 

However again the statutory obligation has been subject to the scrutiny of the judiciary. Section 4(4) of the Act states that the duty is only owed if the landlord knows of the defect (whether as a result of being notified by the tenant or otherwise) or ought to have known in the circumstances. In Alker V Collingwood Housing Association [2007] EWCA Civ 343, it was stated that there is a duty to repair, not a statutory warrant that the premises are kept reasonably safe. It would appear therefore that it is absolutely vital for a tenant to report any defects in their properties to ensure their protection by these important statutory obligations.

 

Additionally to statute, a tenant is protected by the common law duty of care following on from the leading House of Lords case, Donoghue V Stevenson [1932] AC 652 whereby Lord Atkin stated one owes a duty of care to avoid acts or omission which may foreseeably affect your neighbour. In simplistic terms, a landlord has a duty to avoid omissions for example, failing to repair a defect to a property, which may foreseeably harm a tenant or visitor to the premises.

 

To summarise, the statutory and common law provisions are in place to ensure tenants have a safe, comfortable and enjoyable place to live. Unfortunately however, many tenants live in properties whereby these common and statutory law provisions are not adhered to and we see many clients who suffer injury as a result of poor housing situations.

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