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Landlords should ensure they carry out (and record) reasonable inspections of let premises for visible evidence of possible defects, to avoid potential liability for injuries under defective premises law, a recent ruling makes clear.

A residential council tenant was injured when a hole opened up in her garden while she was hanging up washing. This was probably an underground void created by erosion from a defective (broken) underground drainpipe. She claimed damages under defective premises law.

Where a landlord has a legal duty to repair or maintain a property, or a right to enter property to carry out repairs, it must ensure users of that property are reasonably safe from personal injury from defects. However, a landlord is only liable if it knows, or in all the circumstances ought to have known, of the relevant defect.

The High Court ruled that the broken drainpipe was a relevant defect, but the landlord was not liable because:

• There was no indication of any problem in the garden

• Even if there had been a reasonable inspection, the void would not have been discovered

The landlord neither knew nor, in all the circumstances, ought to have known, of the relevant defect.

Nick Armitage, Litigation Partner at Ramsdens comments: "Landlords should ensure they carry out (and record) reasonable inspections of let premises for apparent evidence of possible defects to avoid potential liability for injuries under defective premises law."

If you are a landlord and need advice contact Nick on 01422 410570 or email nick.armitage@ramsdens.co.uk.