Friday, July 06, 2007

No smoke, no fire ...

Note - the Landlord Law Blog has now moved to


Who’d be a smoker today? First it was just a few places, then transport with the trains and busses bringing in a ban, now its banned practically everywhere! Happily I gave up quite some time ago so its not a problem for me.

It is going to be a problem for landlords though, particularly HMO landlords, as from 1 July they must not permit smoking in any of the communal areas of their properties. This includes things like shared stairways, lifts, common parts in houses converted into flats and shared kitchens, toilets and the like. Notices must be put up in entrances, and it must be made clear to tenants that slipping off to the toilet (a shared one that is) for a quick ciggie is definitely not allowed!

In point of fact, landlords should have been wary for some time of allowing any smoking in the common parts of their properties, if only because of the 2000 Court of Appeal decision in Ribee v. Norrie. This is an entertaining case with many typically British case law features – a quotation from Phillip Larkin, reference to a Lord Denning decision, Rylands and Fletcher (escape by fire), and ‘a sprightly 70 year old lady’ (with a ‘heroic’ pet spaniel) who had lived in the adjoining property all her life.

The case makes the point that landlords should take care to prevent their tenants smoking and allowing fire to escape and damage neighboring properties – Mr Norrie ended up paying a judgment debt of £5,063.02 plus a substantial interest payment and costs. One of the Judges even suggested that he should have appointed a live in manager or moved to live at the property himself.

So bear in mind landlords, that if you do not have strict no smoking rules and notices, and your tenants break the law, you are risking not only an on the spot fine but also (if fire escapes to next door) a claim for damages from your neighbours.

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