Common sense prevails – a wrong righted

A good example of the pressures on landlords has been the relatively recent 2015 case of Edwards v Kumarasamy. This seemed to reverse all normal landlord understandings of their legal repairing obligations where the property they were letting was a flat in a block management situation, where a management company charges a fee, you as landlord pay a service charge, and the freeholder has responsibility for external maintenance.

In this case Mr. Edwards (Mr. Kumarsamy’s tenant under a standard assured shorthold tenancy) tripped on an uneven paving slab between the front door of the block of flats and the communal bin area. Mr. Kumarasamy merely owned the leasehold of flat 10, a second floor flat, the path was not owned by the landlord (Mr. Kumarasamy) and he was totally unaware of any problems associated with the path. He (it seems fairly reasonably) claimed that he had no obligation to repair the path between the block and the bin area, it would be the responsibility of the freeholder, discharged through the block management company.

Here in Leicester we rent many of the flats that leapt up in the City Centre flat-building boom of the noughties, and our Leicester landlords would have been affected if there was any other thinking than what we all believed to be the case. If you think about it, there are many thousands of flats rented to all manner of tenants, perfectly successfully, and everyone thought the situation was pretty clear.

Not so the Court of Appeal: in 2015 they ruled that Mr. Kumarasamy was liable for the repairs: Mr. Edwards won his case. The Court of Appeal had overturned the normal legal understanding of a landlord’s obligation to repair their properties, sending tremors through the lettings community. We waited for a flood of similar cases.

Anyway, sigh of relief, and a bit of common sense: in July The Supreme Court overturned that decision and ruled that Mr. Kumarasamy was not liable for the disrepair which caused Mr. Edward’s injuries as he could only be liable if the offending area was part of the exterior of the front hall and if he had had notice of the disrepair before the accident, which he had not.

Read the final decision here

The message seems to be that landlords need to constantly be on their guard: new rules emerge all the time across the whole spectrum of issues that confront landlords. Landlords in Leicester can rely upon Northwood Leicester for an up to date perspective on pressures and knowledge of where to turn for advice. At the same time, we constantly seek to ensure all landlord’s obligations are met, for the sake of our tenants renting in Leicester – these are occasionally misunderstood (how often have I heard “I am leaving a washing machine but don’t want to have anything to do with its upkeep if it goes wrong”) – so even if the case above doesn’t apply to your letting, talk to us for all-round guidance on good letting practice.

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