Is it fair for a landlord to be held responsible for something their tenant has done?
In 2008, a contractor visited a rented property to carry out emergency work on a boiler. He made his way upstairs to work, but on hearing a loud noise he quickly made his way downstairs, but unfortunately he fell and hurt his ankle.
The tenant had removed the stair banister in 1991. There had been several visits by contractors to the home to carry our maintenance without any incidents. No reports were made to the landlord regarding the hazard and no action was taken to replace it.
This was the case known as Hannon v Hillingdon Homes Ltd 2012. Hillingdon defended the action taken against them under the Defective Premises Act regarding Mr Hannon’s injuries. They claimed that the Act did not apply to them because:
- The banister and handrail were not part of the building structure
- They were under no duty to replace
- The tenant removed the handrail and banister *they were not notified of the defect
The ruling went against Hillingdon because the court decided that the staircase and banister form part of the building structure. It was consider that the landlord should have been aware of the fault due to the number of visits over the years, and they should have arranged its repair.
How can insurance help?
Insurance can help protect a landlord in the event of an incident that could lead to a third party taking action against them. In some cases, agencies can also take legal action, such as environmental health.
A landlord is expected to protect tenants and the public against injury or damage to their property, by maintaining their premises. A property owner is expected to manage the risk of accidents in order to prevent them. Once notified of a defect, the landlord is expected to make arrangements for the repairs to be carried out by a competent person. If the tenant is aware of the defect but does not report it, courts have reduced claims made due to the contribution of negligence on the tenant.
Property Owners Insurance will generally provide protection in respect of the landlord’s legal liability for accidental injury to tenants and other individuals and accidental damage to property belonging to third parties. If the landlord is employing anyone, Employers Liability insurance will be required. Property Owners Liability will not provide cover for employees when carrying out their duties as an employee.
The landlord needs to ensure the limit of cover selected is adequate for any claims that may be brought against them.
It is important to select the correct level of cover. A Property Owner’s Liability policy would pay claims up to the limit of indemnity selected per event. Due to the potential cost of awards for personal injury rising, it is usual to select a £5M limit. If an incident happened and the claim went beyond the limit of cover selected, the owner of the property would be liable to pay the excess.
Things to consider in selecting the limit would include the type of tenant occupying the property and the number of people who may be affected by a single incident.
If the property attracted high profile tenants such as professional footballers or other high earning individuals, the cost of loss of earnings and other damages that could be claimed from injury would potentially mean a claim on excess of £5M.
An incident that involved many individuals at the same time would also mean a larger claim that would exceed lower limits such as £1M and £2M limits.
It is also important that you ensure contractors working on your property are adequately insured. A faulty boiler could cause an explosion that potentially could be catastrophic in terms of damages. Any claim brought against you for injury in an incident like this, would result in your insurer claiming from the contractor’s insurer. This is known as ‘subrogation’ in insurance terms.
We always advise using a broker to help you choose the right level of cover. If you consider after reading this article you wish to increase your limit of indemnity mid-term it can be organised easily and is often much lower in cost than you may think.
For more information on our insurance services please contact Debbie McIntyre on 01223 720214 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.nwbrown.co.uk/private-client-insurance/