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Defective Premises – injury claim and liability

With the current economic climate fewer and fewer people are buying their homes. With Banks being reluctant to lend and inflation on the increase, the trend to rent is rising.

If you renting property and you are injured as a result of a defect in that property you can bring a claim for compensation for personal injury under the Defective Premises Act 1972.  This is the Act that covers landlords and builders in respect of poorly constructed and poorly maintained premises.

In reality however, how easy is it to bring a claim ?

Consider the case of Alker v Collingwood Housing Association 2007.  A tenant put her hand against the glass panel of a door to push the door open.  As safety glass had not been fitted her hand went through the glass and she was badly cut. The Courts found that the glass was not “safety glass” but complied with building standards.  The landlord’s duty extended to repairing and maintaining the property – but not necessarily making it safe.  As the glass had not been in a state of disrepair and had not been broken prior to the accident there was no liability on their part.  The absence of a safety feature therefore did not constitute liability.

Consider also the case of Adams v Rhymny Valley DC.  Window locks were fitted in a property.  There was a fire and the family in occupation burned to death as they were unable to open the window and escape. Again, there was no liability on the part of the landlord.  The absence of better features did not constitute “disrepair” even though they were hazardous.  Lack of improvements are in itself insufficient – you have to prove actual deterioration and disrepair.

It follows that you stand more chance of bringing a claim for personal injury if you are injured in a public building than in your own home. A landlord has less of a duty of care to his tenant than a shopkeeper has to a total stranger visiting his premises.  Under the Occupiers Liability Act the shopkeeper has a much larger duty of care:  The “Occupier” must take all reasonable steps to ensure that the visitor will be safe in using the property.  There is no such duty of care owed by a landlord to his tenant.

This page © Copyright 2012, Vashti Norman Solicitor, Mediator and Notary Public.