Landlord and tenant: liability for repairs to the exterior of a building

Buy-to-let owners of leasehold properties and other intermediate landlords will be concerned by a Court of Appeal decision on the liability for repairs to the exterior of a building. Under the terms of the headlease, the freeholder was responsible for keeping the communal areas in good condition, subject to being given notice of the defect. The court held that an implied repairing covenant applied to the intermediate landlord when the subtenant of the flat tripped on an uneven pathway despite the intermediate landlord being unaware of any defect.

Buy-to-let owners of leasehold properties and other intermediate landlords may unexpectedly find themselves liable for repairs to communal areas, even though the head landlord is responsible for their upkeep and they have no notice of any defect. As it is impossible to exclude the implied statutory covenants, there seems little that intermediate landlords can do. Although landlords should generally keep an eye on their properties, it may be impossible for them to know in time that a defect has occurred given that liability arises immediately.