Landlords - beware the Defective Premises Act

The Defective Premises Act 1972 (the Act) imposes wide-ranging liability on landlords and builders for poorly built and maintained buildings. The Act imposes a duty of care on landlords to anyone who might reasonably expect to be affected by a defect in its premises.

If a tenancy agreement imposes a duty on landlords to maintain and repair the property or it reserves the right for the landlord to enter the premises to carry out the premises, the Act will apply. Many tenancies contain these provisions – especially where the landlord is a housing association or local authority.

In a recent case, the Court of Appeal held that Bolsover District Council was liable to a social housing tenant, for injury caused due to a faulty drain cover in a garden of the property in question.

The Council was liable to carry out repairs to the property under the tenancy agreement. The tenant was injured when she stood on the faulty cover, which was owned by a water company and not the Council. It was shown that the Council had not carried out a reasonable inspection of the drain cover and was thus liable to the tenant for the injury, loss and damage caused.

The fact that the Council did not own the drain cover was not relevant to its liability. The Act did not impose an obligation to carry out inspections. But, if there is a known risk, this is relevant when looking at liability under the Act. The Council had not taken reasonable care when carrying out its inspection of the tenant's property and so was liable when she was injured as a result.

This is an important reminder for all landlords to check the terms of their tenancy agreements – they could take on liability under the Act if they have an obligation to repair. Landlords must also ensure that any inspections are carried out diligently and to a proper standard.

To discuss this or any other landlord and tenant related matter, contact us.

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