Occupiers Liability

A Guide for Landowners

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This guide will be useful to help any landowner understand their liabilities to visitors to their land, legally or otherwise.

You should find most of your questions are answered in this guide. If not, start a chat or contact us.

To navigate the guide, you can click on any of the items in 'Contents' to jump to the section that interests you.

Contents

An introduction to the Occupiers Liability Act 1957

Empty House Insurance

As a landowner or occupier, it is crucial to be aware of your legal responsibilities towards individuals entering your land. The Occupiers Liability Act 1957 (OLA 1957) outlines the circumstances under which an occupier can be held liable for injuries, death, or property damage to lawful visitors on their land.

Who Qualifies as an Occupier?

Under the OLA 1957, an occupier is defined as the person in control of the land, premises, building, warehouse, office, etc. Factors determining control include ownership, exclusive possession, immediate right of entry and use, and the possibility of more than one person being considered an occupier.

Notably, the term "occupier" is not limited to individuals and can include local authorities, companies, partnerships, and other entities.

What Constitutes Premises?

Section 1 of the Occupiers Liability Act 1957 broadly defines premises as any fixed or movable structure. This encompasses buildings, factories, houses, land, as well as vessels, vehicles, or aircraft. Even items like chairs, ladders, scaffolding, and lifts can be considered as premises.

Lawful Visitors and the Common Duty of Care

A lawful visitor, under OLA 1957, is someone invited onto the premises by the occupier or those entering the premises in the exercise of a right conferred by law (e.g., policemen and firemen). The occupier's common duty of care, as per Section 2 of OLA 1957, is to ensure the visitor's safety for the intended purpose on the premises.

Specific situations that may alter the standard of care include child visitors, workmen, warnings, and work done by independent contractors. For instance, a higher duty of care is expected when children are involved, while workmen may be assumed to understand and guard against risks associated with their trade.

Does the occupier of the land have to be a person?

The term occupier under OLA 1957 has been held to cover local authorities, companies, individuals and partnerships.

Liability to Children

An occupier must be prepared for the fact that children may be less careful than adults. This means there is a higher duty of care placed on the occupier when children enter the premises.

Occupiers can use various defences to counter claims for liability, including:

  • Providing warnings to visitors: If damage has been caused to the visitor by something which the occupier had previously warned them about, the occupier will not be subject to a greater duty of care if it is found that the warning was reasonable enough to keep that person safe.

  • Consent of the visitor: If a visitor willingly accepts a known risk, the occupier may not be liable for resulting damages.

  • Contributory negligence: Damages may be reduced if the visitor fails to take reasonable care for their own safety.

  • Exclusion of liability: Occupiers may exclude liability through agreements, though this may be subject to scrutiny under the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977.

Trespassers and the Occupiers Liability Act 1984

The Occupiers Liability Act 1984 (OLA 1984) specifically addresses trespassers or those with criminal intent.

To establish a duty of care, the occupier must be aware of the danger, know that the other person will be near the danger, or have reasonable grounds to believe so. No duty exists when a person willingly accepts a risk while trespassing on certain types of land.

Understanding occupiers' liability is essential for anyone who controls or owns property to ensure the safety of visitors and mitigate legal risks associated with accidents or injuries on their premises.

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About the Author

Rob Faulkner CEO of Insuristic

Hi, I'm Rob, CEO and Founder of Insuristic. My mission is to make insurance easier to understand and buy online.

I hold an Advanced Diploma in Insurance (ACII) which demonstrates I have a solid technical understanding of Insurance and have committed to continuous professional development. I am also a member of the Chartered Insurance Institute and hold the a Chartered Insurance Broker status.

Over the last 27 years, I have worked for insurers, insurance brokers and insurance technology businesses, specialising in product, sales and marketing.

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