Occupiers’ Liability: A simple guide for home owners and occupiers

Introduction

Occupiers’ liability deals with the risks posed and harm caused by dangerous places and buildings. Your home and workplace are common examples of the premises where occupiers liability will apply. In this article, we aim to highlight the issues related to your liability as a homeowner to lawful visitor and trespassers.

Reading Time: 4 Minutes

What is on this page?

  • Introduction to occupiers’ liability
  • Duty of care
  • Definition of premises
  • Standard of obligation (liability)
  • Occupier
  • Visitors
  • Unlawful visitors (trespassers and ramblers)
  • Public right of way
  • Children’s safety
  • Warnings /Notice of warning
  • Independent contractor

Duty of Care

As a homeowner and occupier, you are under a duty to take reasonable care in all circumstances to ensure that your visitors (family and friends etc) are safe in using your premises. This means that you are under a  legal duty to remove all dangers from your premises and ensure that your premises are safe.

Premises

Premises can be land or any fixed or movable structure on the land including any vessel, vehicles, aircraft, driveways, buildings, fire escapes, scaffolding etc.

Liability

An occupier may be held liable if he has not taken reasonable care to ensure that those entering the premises are safe. However, an occupier will not be held liable for the accidents which are caused by the faulty workmanship of an independent contractor who was entrusted with the work after reasonable due diligence from the occupier.

Occupier

A person who has a physical or legal control is the occupier of the premises. Occupier could be an owner, a lesse or a licencee provided he has actual control of the premises. Thus an owner or a landlord  who may have let the premises  is unlikely to be an occupier  unless he may still retain some practical control over the premises

  • A landlord who has leased out the premises will not be treated as an occupier unless he still exercises sufficient control.
  • Where a lease imposes on the landlord an obligation in respect of maintenance and repair of the property, the landlord will be held to owe a duty of care to all those who might reasonably be expected to be affected by any defects in the state of the premises so long as the landlord knows or ought to have known of the relevant defects.

Visitors

Visitors include lawful visitors such as invitees, licensees and those who may enter under contractual obligations. If you allow a person to enter your home then such a person is a visitor. A person who has a right to enter your home, for example, a police officer, postman, fireman are also classed as visitors despite the fact that you may not have invited them.

Examples

  • Family, Friends, Postman, Meter Reader all those people who are legally entitled to be on the premises are lawful visitors

Unlawful Visitors (Trespassers and Ramblers)

In very limited circumstances an occupier may also be held liable for injuries suffered by an unlawful visitor. These circumstances include the actual knowledge of the occupier or reasonable grounds to believe the presence of an unlawful visitor within the vicinity of danger or premises.

Public right of way

Public right of way is not a part of occupiers’ liability and an occupier has no duty of care to a person who is injured on a public right of way.

The standard of care

The objective standard of care is applied and the question asked is whether the visitor is safe on the premises. It is the safety of the visitor which matters not the premises by themselves.

Children’s safety

Where the visitors are children, a higher standard of care and safety is required from the occupier to ensure that the children are reasonably safe. An occupier may have to take into account that children are less careful than adults. As a result, the law imposes a higher standard of care for children than to general visitors.

Warnings /Notice of warning

An effective warning, either verbal, visual or in writing may discharge an occupier from liability. So if there is visible danger and you have erected signs or warned your visitor about the dangers then you have discharged your duty of care. However, special care is required where visitors are children.

Independent contractor

An injury occurred due to the work of an independent contractor or subcontractor, the occupier will not be held liable for injuries to the visitor if in all circumstances he has acted reasonably in entrusting the work to an independent contractor.

Example

  • Aramco a small business hired Fresco after due diligence to carry out the necessary refurbishment work. Alan got injured while on the premises of Aramco and injury is a direct result of refurbishment work. Alan may have a claim against Fresco in negligence.

“Occupiers’ liability is a complex area of negligence and tort law. At legalally, we offer a free consultation with our experienced personal injury lawyers. We also pursue most cases on no win no fee bases. For further legal advice, you can speak to our experienced lawyers instantly through any device from anywhere in the world at a time that suits you.”

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