As a result of recent case law, it has been made clear that an owner of a long leasehold interest in a building can be liable to his own tenant for defects in the building, even if someone else is responsible for repairs under the legal title obligations. Under an Assured Shorthold tenancy agreement, there is an implied statutory covenant for the landlord to keep the structure and exterior of a dwelling-house in good repair (under section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985) and that applies even if it is not the owner (tenant’s landlord) but the owner’s landlord (e.g. the freeholder) who is liable for the repair of the structure and exterior.
The Court of Appeal recently made this decision during a case involving defective paving on which a tenant tripped and injured himself. Liability was apportioned to the tenant’s landlord even though he was not aware of the defect. As a result of the implied statutory covenant in residential lettings, buy-to-let flat owners and other landlords could find themselves liable for defects in structure and communal areas, even though they are not responsible for them under their own leases.