The occupier of premises has a legal duty to do everything reasonable in all the circumstances to ensure that lawful visitors are reasonably safe when using the premises for the purpose for which he/she is invited or allowed to be there. If the occupier is found to be negligent, the person injured could bring a civil case for compensation.
An occupier is someone who can be said to have reasonable control over the premises and includes an individual, company, partnership or public authority. A landlord will be counted as an occupier if he/she grants a licence to occupy but retains control, or lets premises on a tenancy but retains control of common parts of a building in multiple occupation.
As well as extending to land and buildings, the definition of premises also includes fixed and moveable structures, such as quaysides, car parks, ships, vehicles or aircraft.
Warning signs and notices generally need to be specific in what they are warning about: signs saying “Beware” or “Danger” are not sufficient. Even if a visitor has been warned of the danger, the occupier may still be liable unless the warning was enough to enable the visitor to be reasonably safe
The law specifically acknowledges that children will be less careful than adults so if your premises is expecting to have children amongst its visitors you need to be extra vigilant to ensure that the premises is in such a state where children will be reasonably safe.
Experts and visiting hired hands – such as firemen, chimney sweeps or window cleaners - working on the premises are expected to appreciate and guard against any special risks which might ordinarily arise in the course of their jobs. This means that an occupier still owes a duty of care to a fireman visiting the premises but the fireman is expected to exercise the skill of an ordinary fireman.
If a visitor is injured due to a danger which arises because of the shoddy work by an independent contractor hired by the occupier, the occupier will not be liable if he/she acted reasonably in entrusting the work to the contractor and took reasonable steps to ensure the contractor was competent and the work was properly done.
If the visitor knows about a danger on the premises this will not necessarily be enough to exonerate an occupier. However, if the visitor knows about the risks and willingly accepts them, the occupier may be able to escape liability. Damages may be reduced where the injured visitor fails to take reasonable care for his own safety.
Where premises are occupied for business purposes, any attempt to exclude liability for death or personal injury caused by negligence is void. It may be possible to exclude liability for property damage but this will be subject to a reasonableness test.
An occupier’s duty of care is also owed to non-visitors – which would cover trespassers, people using private rights of way and entrants to national parks. An occupier will owe a duty to the non-visitor if he/she:
The occupier must take reasonable care to see that the non-visitor does not suffer injury on the premises because of the danger concerned.
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