Alker v Collingwood Housing Association – [2007] 2 EGLR 43

Court of Appeal, Laws, Carnwath and Moore-Bick L.JJ.
February 7, 2007

The claimant tenant occupied premises owned by the defendant landlord. Her tenancy agreement required the landlord to repair and maintain the structure and exterior of the building. The front door to the property contained glass panels made of ordinary toughened glass; such glass panels were known to constitute a hazard and not to be as safe as panels made from safety glass.

The claimant was seriously injured when the glass panel in the door gave way. She brought proceedings against her landlord asserting that s.4, Defective Premises Act 1972, imposed on the landlord a duty to keep the property safe by, inter alia, replacing the toughened glass with safety glass. The defendant defended the claim, on the basis that no duty arose under the 1972 Act to replace the glass because it was not broken or damaged or in disrepair and did not require maintenance.

The county court judge found that the duty under s.4, 1972 Act, was a duty to keep the property safe and accordingly gave judgment in favour of the claimant.

The Court of Appeal allowed an appeal. The duty under s.4, 1972 Act, imposed a duty where premises were let under a tenancy which contained an obligation by the landlord for maintenance and repair. That duty did not extend to rectifying matters – such as the toughened glass – which were not in disrepair or in need of maintenance, even though they had the potential to cause injury.

Author’s note: Though this case has great relevance on all safety issues, the new Housing Health and Safety Rating System brought in by the Housing Act 2004 would require safety glass to be installed if the local authority served an improvement notice requiring safety glass