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Case law: Landlord not liable for injury at defective premises where reasonable inspection would not have revealed defect

Landlords should ensure they carry out (and record) reasonable inspections of let premises for visible evidence of possible defects, to avoid potential liability for injuries under defective premises law, a recent ruling makes clear.

Legal Alert

This update was published in Legal Alert - August 2016

Legal Alert is a monthly checklist from Atom Content Marketing highlighting new and pending laws, regulations, codes of practice and rulings that could have an impact on your business.

A residential council tenant was injured when a hole opened up in her garden while she was hanging up washing. This was probably an underground void created by erosion from a defective (broken) underground drainpipe. She claimed damages under defective premises law.

Where a landlord has a legal duty to repair or maintain a property, or a right to enter property to carry out repairs, it must ensure users of that property are reasonably safe from personal injury from defects. However, a landlord is only liable if it knows, or in all the circumstances ought to have known, of the relevant defect.

The High Court ruled that the broken drainpipe was a relevant defect, but the landlord was not liable because:

  • There was no indication of any problem in the garden
  • Even if there had been a reasonable inspection, the void would not have been discovered

The landlord neither knew nor, in all the circumstances, ought to have known, of the relevant defect.

Operative date

  • Now

Recommendations

  • Landlords should ensure they carry out (and record) reasonable inspections of let premises for apparent evidence of possible defects to avoid potential liability for injuries under defective premises law

Case ref: Lafferty v Newark & Sherwood DC (2016) EWHC 320 (QB)

Disclaimer: This article from Atom Content Marketing is for general guidance only, for businesses in the United Kingdom governed by the laws of England. Atom Content Marketing, expert contributors and ICAEW (as distributor) disclaim all liability for any errors or omissions.

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