Importance of liability insurance emphasised to landlords

Wed 22 Jul 2015

The obligations of landlords when it comes to making repairs to their properties appear to have been significantly broadened following a recent court case. This serves as a timely opportunity for those letting out a property to consider their responsibilities in this area.

The Court of Appeal recently heard the case of Edwards v Kumarasamy, in which the latter owned a second-floor apartment within a block on a leasehold basis and let it to the former.

Edwards tripped on a piece of uneven paving at a point between the block’s front door and a communal bin area and suffered an injury. Kumarasamy claimed he had no obligation to carry out repairs on the pathway in question as he owned only as a leaseholder.

The initial court hearing found in favour of Edwards, interpreting section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 in a way that allowed it to rule Kumarasamy had an interest in the structure of the entire building and, as a result, was responsible for keeping it in good repair.

However, the appeal judge overturned this decision, stating a landlord could only be bound by this obligation if he was adequately notified of a defect, such as the broken paving slab. The Court of Appeal subsequently applied the O’Brien v Robinson 1973 ruling and once again reversed the decision, ruling it is only a tenant’s obligation to notify a landlord of such a problem when it applies only to those who would be the first (and possibly only) person to learn of the defect.

In a block of flats, Edwards was not the first or only person to whom the uneven paving would have been an issue, meaning it was not his duty to tell his landlord. Kumarasamy was therefore held responsible as the case was awarded to Edwards, costing the landlord approximately £3,500.

Carole Charge, Leaders’ technical and compliance director, says: “This decision is a real cause of concern to landlords, particularly those who own properties within blocks of flats. Many would not ordinarily assume they would be liable for defects arising away from their property and that they would be dealt with by the freeholder or an appointed management company.

“But the Court of Appeal’s verdict shows this is a risky assumption to make and landlords need to be aware of the possibility of being taken to court by a tenant over such matters.

“The most effective way to protect against these potentially costly scenarios is by taking out a specialist landlord’s liability insurance policy which provides cover for such claims as the one brought by Edwards. If you already have a landlord policy in place you should check with your insurer whether leasehold liability is covered.

“Although liability insurance is not a legal requirement, it should be considered a must in light of this case. It is simply not worth taking the risk of being unprotected and a similar incident occurring.”

Leaders has partnered with Hepburns Insurance to offer bespoke insurance policies which have been specially designed to mitigate the potential risks landlords face - including leasehold liability - to provide complete peace of mind. The policy includes cover for the cost of damages awarded to the claimant; legal costs in defending a claim and the claimant’s legal costs, if the landlord is found at fault.

For more details or to arrange a quote please visit www.hislinsurance.com.

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