The law imposes few obligations upon landlords of long Leases to repair property by statute or otherwise implied. The position is different in tenancies of less than seven years - where duties are imposed by the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985.
The key to determining a landlord's obligation to keep long leasehold property in repair is the terms of the Lease. Ensuring that leaseholders Lease contains sufficient repairing obligations is a central task of Conveyancing solicitors
Residential Leases approach the problem of ensuring that landlords maintain property in good repair by a huge variety of different repairing obligations (known as "repairing covenants"). The business of drafting Leases has evolved over time and depending upon whether the building was designed as a purpose built leasehold flats or whether it has been converted from a mansion into a number of separate flats.
The interpretation of Leases is a very specialised area of law. For example the mere fact that a Lease contains provision to allow a landlord to recover the costs of repairing a building will not necessarily oblige the landlord to actually undertake repairs.
A court tends to take the view that the Lease contains the complete agreement between the parties and will only imply repairing obligations in exceptional circumstances.
In the event that a landlord does fail to fulfil their obligations to keep property in repair the tenant has a number of potential options. Legal proceedings can be issued to seek an Order for specific performance, for an injunction or for damages.
Specific performance is an Order requiring the wrong doer to do a specific act - for example to carry out repairs. The imposition of this remedy (as with the grant of an injunction) is entirely discretionary - a claimant may not seek this as of right. The more complex a repair obligation the more cautious a court may be about granting specific performance. A court may also take into account the conduct of the tenant and whether the landlord's breach is significant and can be remedied by a financial award.
In terms of awards of damages (awards of financial compensation) the court will award this where there has been loss - which might include the costs of implementing repairs, sums for the loss of ability to occupy property (where the disrepair is such as to render occupation impossible) and very unusually in English law can include compensation for distress and inconvenience.
The court may also appoint a Receiver who may be required to ensure that the landlord's obligations to repair are carried out. The court will usually appoint an independent surveyor to undertake this task. The court may direct that the Receiver be remunerated out of service charges.