House of Horrors? Personal Injury and Defective Premises

By John James on

The relationship between a landlord and a tenant is usually harmonious. Communication is good, both parties are aware of their contractual responsibilities and tenants can be left largely to their own devices. Perfect!

But what if the property contains a defect, or falls into disrepair? What happens when someone is injured on the property as a result of that defect? In this article, we look at the options available to both landlords and tenants in the unfortunate event that someone suffers a personal injury on rented property.

The Tenant

Generally, the occupants of rented property have a duty to use it in a “tenant-like way”. This means it should be kept reasonably clean, and they must not cause damage or use fixtures or fittings inappropriately. Our property litigation team has previously written an article on disrepair in rented properties and can advise further.

If damage or a defect occurs, the tenant should always report it to the landlord at the first opportunity. If you do not give the landlord a chance to repair a loose banister, can they really be held responsible if you then fall down the stairs and injure yourself? A claim against them for personal injury is unlikely to succeed if they don’t know about the issue.

Our best tip to tenants is to keep a note of the first date you report any damage or defect. You should also take photographs of the defective premises so you have proof that it exists. Most digital cameras and mobile phones have electronic date stamps, which may come in handy in your claim.

The Landlord

Under the Defective Premises Act 1972, a landlord is under a duty to all tenants and visitors to the property to keep them “reasonably safe” from personal injury caused by any defects. If he fails to repair damage within a reasonable time and someone is injured, the landlord may be liable to pay damages to the injured person – and this can become very expensive indeed.

Further, if the landlord does not have public liability insurance, or the insurance does not cover personal injury, the tenant can come after the landlord directly. Again, this can become a very expensive exercise if the injuries are serious.

Therefore, if you are a landlord, it is essential that you check your insurance terms and make sure you are covered for personal injury losses. If a defect is reported, get it fixed quickly and reduce the risk of an injury being caused. Keep a note of when it was first reported and when you responded; it might make the difference in proving if you acted reasonably or unreasonably! If you have an agent managing the property, make sure they are aware of the urgency of any works that need carrying out.

Rising numbers

We have seen an upturn in the number of claims for personal injury being brought by tenants against landlords. It is believed that certain firms of solicitors and claims management companies (CMCs – see our earlier article) are targeting this area of personal injury law as a way of filling a gap that might be left by changes in the rules on whiplash claims. Therefore, it is more important than ever that landlords are aware of their duties and responsibilities when renting property.

Speak to a specialist

We have specialist experience of acting for both tenants and landlords / property owners, which gives us a broad range of knowledge from both sides of the fence.

If you are a tenant and you are not sure if you have a personal injury claim as a result of defective premises, why not give us a call to check if your landlord has complied with his duties. Or, if you are a landlord and you are concerned about a letter you have received from a solicitor, we are happy to have a no-obligation chat with you about your options. It can’t hurt to ask, and it may save you a lot of financial pain!

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