Is the leaseholder or landlord responsible for repair of a door entry system? – Kellie Jones provides clarification in The Sunday Times
Litigation Partner, Kellie Jones provides clarification in the Sunday Times looking at the following scenario...
Q: I own a leasehold flat with an entry phone system that is not working properly — a visitor cannot be buzzed in, nor can they be spoken to when they ring my flat. Having contacted the management company and reported the fault, they sent an electrician, who has reported back that it is the equipment in my flat that is at fault. The management tell me that, as the equipment is inside the flat, it is my responsibility to get it fixed.
I have checked my lease and it states quite clearly in a paragraph listing the responsibilities of my landlord: “door entry systems”. The management company have said it is not their responsibility, referencing a separate paragraph that pertains to what “the flat” consists of, which says “the conduits that serve the flat exclusively”.
Surely they can’t have it both ways? I realise that I will undoubtedly pay for any remedial works through the service charge one way or another, but as several other flats in the block are experiencing similar problems, it seems only right that management take proper responsibility for their equipment.
A: The wording of the lease will determine whether this is something you or your landlord is responsible for. It will be necessary to look at the clauses dealing with the demise (what is included in the flat), repairs and service charge, including landlord’s responsibilities, and see how they fit together.
Normally a tenant is responsible for most things within their demise, but there is no hard and fast rule. When interpreting a lease, words are to be given their usual and ordinary meaning.
In this case, “door entry systems” may extend to both the main entrance panel and the panels in each flat because they are required to communicate with one another — it is likely that the majority of that system (including the wiring) would be outside your demise. Although it sounds like the faulty panel is within your flat, this does not necessarily let the landlord off the hook.
It is worth considering whether the landlord would be happy if you tried to replace the panel with something else or removed it completely, even if it were working. Does the landlord see it as one system? For example, if the landlord wanted to upgrade or replace the system in the future, it would likely need to upgrade all parts of the system, including the panels within the flats, at the same time. The tenants would not typically be made responsible to deal with those works themselves.
If you cannot persuade the landlord/managing agents, you may want to consider instructing a solicitor to provide you with tailored legal advice to interpret your specific lease. This is because there is no one size fits all approach when it comes to interpreting repair obligations and service charge provisions.
This article was first published in the Sunday Times in May 2023.