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Is a Landlord Under a Duty to Inspect Tenanted Property?

property inspection

The position as is understood generally is that a landlord who has leased possession of a property to a tenant, would not be under a duty to inspect that property during the term of the lease.  It is a condition of most tenancy agreements that there is a requirement on the tenant to report defects to the landlord or the managing agent highlighting the reactive nature of the relationship when it comes to disrepair.  The Defective Premises Act 1972 provides the legal standpoint for claims being brought against landlords.  This blog will not go into detail on the Act itself, but look at the landlord’s obligation.

Disrepair is something of a hot topic at the moment due to recent well-publicised and desperately sad cases in which residents have been injured or died due to the living conditions in their rented homes.

There have been reforms to this area of law from Parliament, notably the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 and the Building Safety Act 2022.  Should the Court be asked in legal proceedings to approach the question of whether a landlord should inspect a property, there is guidance from organisations such as the National Residential and Landlords Association which is relevant.  The NRLA advised that ‘’regular property inspections are vital’’ to comply with the duties under the 2018 Act.  This is pertinent to the question of whether a Court would consider that landlord is under a duty to inspect.

The change appears to be broadly towards tenant’s safety.  The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 has introduced a statutory implied positive covenant to Section 9A of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 that the property ‘’will remain fit for human habitation during the term of the lease’’.  The duty here is positive which does not sit well with a purely reactive system of maintenance.  Indeed Parliament has provided an unlimited right of entry under Section 9A(7) to houses in England for a landlord to ‘’enter the dwelling for the purpose of viewing its condition and state of repair’’.  It would appear that the law as it currently stands has on balance the position that a landlord may be under a duty to inspect their tenanted property.  It is clear that this area of law is currently in flux, and recent reforms and guidance make the question increasingly likely to be answered in the positive.  For tenants, this is good news as it lowers the bar to bring claims under the DPA.  There are of course statutory provisions, such as a duty upon landlords to annually inspect gas installations which is separate to the implied duty as set out above.

If a landlord does carry out inspections and misses something, then clearly there could be criticisms.  If a landlord does not carry out inspections then they could also be criticised.  If a landlord does choose to carry out inspections, such inspections need to be properly documented to defend any potential claim that may arise.

Should you have concerns as a landlord or a tenant, please do not hesitate to contact Simon Horwood on 01256 320555 or mail@clarkeandson.co.uk for further guidance.

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