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26th August 2014

Tenants’ liability for costs of belated repairs by the landlord

The Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) recently considered how much residential tenants should pay for repair works which their landlord should have carried out decades earlier and held that the tenants were liable for the full costs of the repairs, despite the delay.

The Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) recently considered how much residential tenants should pay for repair works which their landlord should have carried out decades earlier and held that the tenants were liable for the full costs of the repairs, despite the delay. The case involved a three storey Victorian building with shops on the ground floor and residential flats on the upper floors, which the landlord had owned since 1973. The leases required the landlord to repair the building structure and the tenants to pay for this through the service charge. From 2008 to 2010, the landlord rather belatedly carried out significant structural repairs to steel beams that supported a parapet wall. The tenants began proceedings to determine how much they had to contribute to the costs, contending that the repairs should have been done much earlier and the failure to do so had increased the costs of the work. The Upper Tribunal decided that the only way in which the tenants’ liability to pay for the repairs could be reduced was if the costs would have been less had the landlord dealt with the repairs when first required to by its repairing covenant. If the tenants could prove this, they would be entitled to set off their claim in damages for breach of the repairing covenant against their contribution to the repair costs. In this case, the landlord had been in breach of the repairing covenant since the tenants had acquired the leases. However, the Tribunal concluded, on the basis of expert evidence, that the same works would have been required whether they had taken place when the obligation to repair first arose or at any later stage. Prompter repairs would not have resulted in any savings, so the tenants were liable for the full costs. This case highlights that current tenants may be held liable for the full costs of repairs, even where those repairs should have been carried out many years ago when the cost would have been shared more equitably. Therefore, prospective tenants should check the physical condition not just of the part of the premises they might lease but also of the whole building, to avoid any nasty surprises when it comes to service charge liability. For more information, please contact Eleanor Rutherford on 01604 233233 or click here to email Eleanor. For more information about our dispute resolution services please click here.

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