There are 3 main sources under which the landlord’s obligations to repair may arise:
- Through express terms set out in the tenancy agreement
- Through Common Law
In this Part I, we look at repair obligations in the Tenancy Agreement “(express terms”) and those implied by Common Law. In Part II we will look at the Landlord’s Statutory obligations of repair.
Through Express Terms Set out in the Tenancy Agreement
There may be terms within the tenancy that set out the express obligation on the part of the landlord in respect of the repair of property. Although both the landlord and the tenant are free to agree any obligations between them to be added to the tenancy agreement, the terms of the agreement cannot override statute. It is common for the tenancy agreement to simply set down that there is a “duty to repair”.Through Common Law
The two most relevant repair duties imposed on landlords through Common Law are: • The property should fit for human habitation at the start of the tenancy • Obligations relating to other parts of property which are not let under the tenancy but are under the landlord’s control (examples of these may be entrance halls, stairs, pathways, the common parts within a block of flats)“Fit for Human Habitation at the Start of the Tenancy”
The requirement that the property should be fit for human habitation at the start of the tenancy does not extend to unfurnished properties and does not impose a duty on the landlord to keep property in that condition. If the property is deemed to be not fit for human habitation at the start of the tenancy the tenant can repudiate the tenancy and walk away. Being “unfit for human habitation” may include matter such as the presence of vermin and drainage defects.“Obligations Relating to Other Parts of Property Which are Not Let under the Tenancy”
This relates to those parts property which are under the control of the landlord but not part of the tenancy but are peripheral to the enjoyment of the property. An example would be the obligation to maintain the condition of the roof to the building in which a flat is situated, this is because a leaking roof may have a physically damaging effect on the property. Another example is the need to keep the staircases leading to the flat in safe and good condition because the use of the staircase to gain access to the flat is essential to the enjoyment of off that flat. Essentially, the landlord has a duty to take reasonable care of the common parts and structure of the building so that they do not deteriorate to such condition as would cause damage to the tenant or to the flats within the building which are let all which would interfere with the entrance of the said flats. This is essentially a liability in negligence extending not only to the tenant but anyone who is lawfully on the premises. Unlike other implied and statutory duties of repair it is not necessary that the landlord should have had notice of the disrepair. The scope of this obligation is not precisely defined and is ever evolving through caselaw. For example, the landlords of a tower block were held to have implied obligations to take reasonable care to maintain and take reasonable care to maintain the stairs, lifts and lighting of stairs in a good state of repair.