In a decision of importance to landlords and tenants, the Supreme Court has ruled that property owners cannot be held liable for the consequences of disrepairs of which they have not been notified.
The case concerned an accident in which the subtenant of a flat was injured when he tripped over an uneven paving stone on the pathway leading up to the front door of the block where the flat was located. The subtenancy conferred on him a right to use common parts of the block and he launched a compensation claim against the long leaseholder of the flat.
He was awarded £3,750 in damages by a judge, whose decision was later approved by the Court of Appeal. However, in unanimously upholding the leaseholder’s challenge to that ruling, the Court found that he had wrongly been held responsible for a defect in the pathway of which he had no notice.
The leaseholder was not in possession of the pathway and any obligation to repair it would only have been triggered once he had notice of the disrepair. By entering into the subtenancy, he had effectively lost the right to use the common parts and the subtenant was in any event in the best position to spot the uneven paving stone due to his frequent use of the pathway.
The subtenant had also argued that the leaseholder was, by operation of Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, under an implied duty to maintain the structure and exterior of the block. However, the Court found that, as a matter of ordinary language, the pathway could not be viewed as part of the exterior of the front hall of the building.