23 May, 2019
The Court of Appeal has confirmed that pursuant to s.4 Defective Premises Act (DPA) there is no specific duty on landlords to carry out a system of regular inspection.
The Claimant was a tenant of a house owned by the Defendant pursuant to a tenancy agreement dated 15 July 2013, which obliged the landlord to maintain the structure and exterior of the property.
In September 2014, the Claimant was mowing the lawn when she stepped backwards onto a 40-year-old corroded inspection cover. The cover gave way and she fell into the void beneath. The inspection cover, underlying equipment and structure were the property of the water authority.
The property had been inspected at the start of the tenancy in May 2013, and again in January 2014 as part of a stock review and the corroded cover had not been noted.
The Court of Appeal confirmed that a landlord is not necessarily under a duty to implement a system of regular inspection of a property to satisfy s.4 of the Defective Premises Act. It was a question of fact, and a landlords' knowledge of any likely or known risks at a property would be relevant.
The Court went on to consider whether reasonable care had been taken in carrying out the inspections of the property. The nature and extent of the inspection was unclear and the Court of Appeal found that the District Judge was entitled to find that that there was no sound evidence to confirm that a reasonable inspection of the garden had been carried out and the inspection covers represented a clear and obvious safety risk. There was a physical defect, which would have been revealed by a simple pressure test. In the circumstances, it was held that the defective cover was a defect about which the landlord had known, or should have known, had the inspection been carried out properly.
The steps a landlord ought to take by way of inspection will depend on each case. The Court will consider what a competent landlord exercising reasonable care would do. Sometimes a visual inspection will be all that is required, but in other circumstances, where a specific risk is foreseeable, something more may be needed.