Clarity for Leaseholder Landlords – Edwards v Kumarasamy
20 July 2016 by Ties Bouwmeester
The Supreme Court has recently overturned a Court of Appeal decision concerning a landlord’s responsibility for outside areas.
In the Edwards v Kumarasamy case, the tenant, Mr Edwards, had made a claim against his landlord under section 11 of the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985 as he was injured after tripping on an uneven paving stone on the paved area leading to the main entrance of the block of flats he rented. Section 11 incorporates the obligation to keep in repair the structure and exterior of the property in all tenancies under 7 years.
Initially, the Deputy District Judge hearing the case found in Mr Edwards’ favour and awarded him £3,750 in damages. The landlord, Mr Kumarasamy, successfully appealed to a Circuit Judge who dismissed the claim. Mr Edwards then appealed to the Court of Appeal who allowed his appeal. It was held that Mr Kumarasamy had an easement of right of way over the entrance hall in the building and accordingly had an interest in the entrance hall for the purposes of Section 11. The pathway was short and part of the means of access to the entrance hall and therefore part of the exterior of the entrance hall. Accordingly, Mr Kumarasamy was under an obligation to keep it in repair. Further, the fact that Mr Kumarasamy had not had notice of the uneven paving stone did not provide him with a defence, because the disrepair did not arise in premises demised to Mr Edwards. Mr Kumarasamy appealed to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court allowed the appeal. Lord Neuberger, the leading judge, summed up the decision in his judgement: ‘I would therefore allow this appeal, on the ground that, although he had a sufficient ‘interest’ in the front hallway and paved area for the purposes of section 11(1A)(a), Mr Kumarasamy was not liable for the disrepair which caused Mr Edwards’s injury, as (i) he could only be liable if the paved area was “part of the exterior of the front hall” and it was not, and (ii) he could only be liable if he had had notice of the disrepair before the accident and he did not.
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