The Business Legal Services Blog

Where do a landlord’s liabilities end?

KeysAs a landlord, you have a certain responsibility towards your tenants, but how far does this go?

For instance, is the landlord responsible if a tenant falls on a staircase with no handrail or bannister?

The Case

In the case of Sternbaum v Dhesi, this exact topic was discussed after a tenant slipped and fell as she walked up a staircase.

The stairs in question were steep, but they were without a handrail prior to the tenancy agreement being signed. There were, however, indications that a bannister might have been removed at some stage in the property’s history.

In most tenancies, the landlord is obliged to keep the structure and exterior of a rented property in good repair. The Defective Premises Act of 1972 also imposes a duty of care to anyone who might be affected by the poor state of your accommodation.

The findings

In the Sternbaum v Dhesi case, the court found in the landlord’s favour, concluding a lack of handrail or bannister did not constitute disrepair.

Photographs of the staircase, which were similar to those in hundreds of old buildings, were shown. The court commented the situation could be regarded as a hazard. However there was nothing about its appearance that could justify the description of disrepair. Therefore, to require a landlord to fit a handrail would amount to an obligation to improve the premises or make them safe.

As a second point, the court considered whether the staircase and missing bannister should be classed as part of the premise’s structure.

No decision was reached on this issue. It was suggested it would be difficult to argue the bannister was part of the staircase construction. Ultimately, the tenancy agreement was used to determine what was and was not included in the premises.

Alex Byard: Where do a landlord's liabilities end?
Alex Byard

Looking Ahead

This matter highlights how easy it is to fall foul of the rules imposed on a landlord. If you are unclear about your obligations, always seek legal advice. For more information, call our team on 0114 218 4000, email us at or complete this form

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