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Landlords’ responsibility for tenants’ health

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Time and time again, Tenants rely upon statutory repair obligations within their tenancy agreements to bring claims against their Landlord. Unfortunately, the cost of repairs can often be the least of the Landlord’s troubles when the Tenant also makes a personal injury claim. The question which arises is-  is a Landlord responsible for a tenant’s health?

The answer to that may be, to a certain extent, yes! Some liability does exist and landlords need to be aware of their responsibilities and the legal implications of the legislation that governs tenancies, to save them time money and in some cases prosecution.

The obligations

Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 makes the Landlord responsible for repairs in relation to the structure of the property and its exterior, as well as heating and hot water installations and the supply of gas, water and electricity. This repairing obligation cannot be excluded from tenancy agreements and Landlords cannot make Tenants responsible to pay for the repairs. The tenancy agreement might not limit the Landlords responsibility to just these items and a landlord must be aware that insignificant complaints may cause health problems from which a liability may arise.

Section 4 of the Defective Premises Act also places a duty on the Landlord regarding their repair obligations and furthermore, the Environmental Protection Act 1980 enables a prosecution to be made in the event that a property causes a nuisance prejudicial to health.  A Local Authority must also inspect a property if a category 1 or 2 hazard exists under the Housing, Health and Safety Rating System.

Notice and inspection

A Landlord must be put on notice of the disrepair to be liable for it, but the Landlord should be cautious as it is not just a Tenant’s telephone call, letter or email that puts them on notice. If the landlord visits the property for a different reason or their Agents do so in their place, then they may be put on notice with a want of repair, which could be adversely affecting the Tenants health and may lead to them making a claim for personal injury, compensation and the requirement for the repairs to be carried out.

Whilst the issue of disrepair to a property may in the case of moisture, mould and mildew appear on the face of matters to be nothing more than the Tenant failing to open to windows, it could be a costly mistake for a Landlord not to investigate the issue and recognise that it may be liable if the disrepair adversely affects the health of the Tenant or if there is a statutory nuisance which should be actioned.

The state of the property when the Tenant moves in is a factor and whilst the property must be safe and habitable, there is no statutory need for the property to be improved. An inspection at the commencement of the tenancy may be of benefit to both parties.

Claims

Compensation, fines and costs will be ordered by the Court if the Landlord is found guilty of being on notice of such a want of repair, but fails to resolve the issue.

Claims for personal injuries in some cases may be limited to £5000. Claimants making a disrepair claim with a personal injury are often entitled to legal aid which means that recoverability of costs, which will usually run to thousands, may not be recouped in the event the case is successfully defended.

Advice

Both Landlords and Agents should treat all reports of disrepair seriously and consider taking action and deal promptly with a response to any notice received from the Tenant and or the Council.

Landlords can help themselves by working closely with their Agents and Tenants to recognise issues before bigger problems arise. Regular inspections of properties and taking any reports from Tenants seriously, in addition to a well drafted Tenancy Agreement will go a long way to managing a Landlords responsibilities.

Advice on this issue can also be obtained from our Property Litigation Department.
 

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