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Landlords urged to have adequate liability insurance

Neille Ryan
Neille Ryan

Landlords have been urged to have adequate liability insurance after the case of a missing door handle had serious consequences.

With demand for rented homes soaring, it was a reminder of a landlord’s responsibility when their tenant sustains an injury on the premises, according to Neille Ryan, a personal injury specialist at law firm Furley Page, based in Chatham.

In Alexander v Fresh Water Properties at the Court of Appeal, the landlord was held personally liable for his contractors’ negligence when they removed the handle from a heavy self-closing door, but then failed to install a temporary handle.

Mr Ryan said: “The claimant, a tenant living at the property, faced with a door with no handle had to grasp the edge of the door and suffered a partial amputation when it slammed shut on her finger. The court did not suggest that the contractor was incompetent, or that the landlord had failed to check the builder’s credentials. But the landlord’s duty to take reasonable care for the safety of his resident was not one which the landlord could pass on to the builder.

“For landlords, this highlights the importance of having adequate liability insurance. Cases which get all the way to the Court of Appeal are expensive.”

Mr Ryan added that for tenants the decision was a reminder that there are some responsibilities which their landlord cannot avoid by passing tasks onto others.

He warned that accidents in rented properties were likely to become more frequent as the letting market continues to expand, driven by the rising price of buying a home, bank reluctance to lend to first time buyers without a hefty deposit and soaring demand, especially in university towns where large numbers of students inflate the market.

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