Our rental repair job has hit a brick wall

Our lawyer Fiona McNulty explains the legal responsibilities of landlords when it comes to repairing damage to the 'structure' of a property
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Question: We live in a top-floor flat that we've rented for a year. Before we moved in, we noticed water marks on some of the ceilings but were told the roof had been repaired and everything was fine. The landlord painted the flat, including the ceilings, just before we moved in.

We have now had a bad leak through the sitting room ceiling and it has damaged the plaster there and on the walls. The letting agent says our landlord should do the repairs but the landlord says it is our job. Which one is right?

Answer: You have been renting this flat for less than seven years, so under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 your landlord is obliged to repair the "structure" and the exterior of the property.

Your landlord probably knows this but has got confused, thinking the plaster isn't part of the structure of the flat. But it is. It is classed as one of the "essential materials" that make up the structure of the building.

The letting agent should draw the landlord's attention to a recent case in which the Court of Appeal confirmed that the plaster finishes on the walls and ceilings of a flat do form part of the structure of the flat and, as such, are the responsibility of the landlord. In your case, that means he must repair the plaster for you.

What's your problem?

If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, email legalsolutions@standard.co.uk. We regret that questions cannot be answered individually.

Fiona is a partner in the residential real estate team at Thring LLP www.thrings.com.

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