Court case casts doubt over government’s tenant cashback scheme
Landlords liable for injury caused by tenant repairs
Landlords will have to carry out checks on their properties after a landmark court case ruled they are liable for injury caused by work carried out by tenants.
The ruling has cast further doubt on the viability of the government’s tenant cashback scheme, in which tenants carry out minor repairs in return for a cash reward.
In the case, which concluded in London’s High Court last week, repairs and maintenance contractor T Brown Group sued Hillingdon Council after one of its contractors hurt his ankle after falling from a stairway where tenants had removed the banisters for aesthetic reasons.
The judge found that Hillingdon was responsible for contract worker Patrick Hannon’s injuries, which left him unable to work, even though it neither sanctioned nor carried out the work. The council now faces a potential six-figure pay out, with the exact figure to be determined at a later date.
Hugo Stephens, partner at law firm Cobbetts, said: ‘This case proves one of the points that has continually been raised about tenant cashback - you can’t just allow tenants to do any repairs you like and there needs to be some sort of process by which you ensure that health and safety is complied with.’
Colm Nugent, a barrister for law firm Hardwicke who represented Mr Hannon against Hillingdon Council, said: ‘If a tenant does repairs badly and a third party is injured, then the landlord could find themselves in the dock for something they didn’t do.’
Mr Nugent said this means landlords will have to inspect tenant repairs carried out under tenant cashback or risk being sued.
Ian Rumsam, head of the tenant cashback pilot scheme at Together Housing Group, said the organisation has ensured tenants only carried out minor works in order to avoid potential legal challenges: ‘[Tenants] would not and should not carry out any repairs which can affect the functionality or structure of the building,’ he said.
There are currently three government-backed tenant cashback pilots underway.
A spokesperson for the Communities and Local Government department said: ‘We have always made clear that with any tenant cashback scheme, landlords remain responsible for the state of their properties and ensuring that work is carried out to a good standard.’