What happens if a tenant is injured?
If a tenant is injured or becomes sick, and they decide to pursue compensation, the tenant’s solicitor will look at the facts of the case to decide if the injury or illness was caused by the landlord’s negligence.
The key questions that the tenant’s solicitor will consider are:
- Was the injury or illness caused by a property defect?
- Was the landlord aware of the defect, or reasonably should have been aware?
- Did the landlord take reasonable action to fix the defect or otherwise protect the tenant?
The tenant’s solicitor will make their case to the solicitor acting for the landlord. The landlord’s solicitor will then advise how to proceed. The landlord’s solicitor may agree that the tenant has a case, and will recommend that the case is settled, or they may disagree. If the tenant still believes they have a strong case, the matter may go to court.
If the landlord has insurance, the insurance company will probably handle the legal work as any compensation will be paid out under the policy.
Could there be criminal consequences?
The standard for a criminal prosecution is much higher than the standard of negligence in a civil claim. Even if a landlord’s conduct is considered to be negligent and a tenant is seriously injured, it does not necessarily mean the conduct is criminal.
Landlords’ liability insurance
Under the Employers’ Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969, landlords who employ staff to manage and maintain property must have employers’ liability (EL) insurance.
This EL insurance ensures that workers who are injured on the job can claim compensation. Under certain limited circumstances, the EL insurance may also protect other parties, but it is very unlikely that an EL policy offers any protection for tenants.
The cost of serious injury compensation can be hundreds of thousands of pounds, particularly if more than one tenant is injured or becomes sick, or if an injured tenant is unable to work for an extended period.
Landlords’ liability insurance or public liability insurance will shield a landlord from the financial consequences if a tenant is seriously injured. This insurance cover should also protect a tenant’s friends, family and other visitors to the property.
When considering their liability for a tenant’s injuries or illness, landlords should focus on three issues:
- Compliance with the law – Landlords must carry out regular maintenance, act promptly to repair defects and protect tenants’ wellbeing, and ensure that gas safety checks and other mandatory duties are fulfilled.
- Landlords’ Insurance – Landlords should strongly consider taking out a suitable insurance policy to cover tenants’ injury compensation, and ensure that the terms of the policy (like a requirement for regular maintenance) are fulfilled.
- Maintaining a positive relationship with tenants – This is often overlooked, but can make handling the other two key issues much easier. Having a good relationship with tenants helps to ensure that access can be easily arranged when necessary, that tenants feel confident reporting defects and other concerns, and that matters do not become fraught in the event that an injury does occur.
Although the law often treats “reasonableness” as a threshold to meet, it is far safer to do more than the bare minimum of what a court might consider reasonable. Landlords should aim to take prompt, proactive action, and should communicate regularly with tenants about safety issues and concerns.
Taking these steps will help to significantly reduce the risk of an injury or illness occurring. If the worst happens and a tenant is injured, there will be no question that the reasonableness standard has been met.
Check out part 1 which covers what the law says if a tenant is injured and both the landlord’s and tenant’s responsibilities.
Chris Salmon – Author Bio
Chris Salmon is a co-founder and Director of Quittance Legal Services. Chris has played key roles in the shaping and scaling of a number of legal services brands and is a regular commentator in the legal press.