Claims against landlords for accidents caused by disrepair
I am often instructed by tenants who wish claimants who to bring claims against their landlords for injuries suffered at home or in the common parts of a building (ie the parts shared with other tenants such as the entrance hall or garden). Usually, the circumstances leading up to these accidents are either poor or inadequate repairs.
Most landlords have a duty under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 to keep in good repair the structure and exterior of a dwelling house/flat. This is in addition to any obligations under the Occupiers Liability Act 1957 to ensure the premises are safe for lawful visitors. Whilst the accident circumstances in most cases are fairly obvious, getting admissions of liability from landlords for these types of claims can be quite difficult. I recently settled a case for a client who was injured on her way down some stairs at home.
At the time of the accident, my client’s landlord had commissioned restoration of the floorboards in the hallway which had been damaged by water underneath the property. The floorboards had been removed the previous day leaving the pipework in the hallway exposed save for some dust sheets. The removal of the floorboards created an additional drop of approximately 4 inches from the last step on the stairs to the floor. As my client stepped onto the floor at the bottom of the stairs, she came into contact with exposed pipework causing her ankle to twist, and her to fall sideways.
It later turned out that the hallway should not have been left in that condition. My client’s landlord had entrusted the repairs to their contractors who in turn engaged the services of a subcontractor, but all three were involved throughout the process.
Unfortunately, my client who was an elderly lady suffered very serious injuries to both ankles, including fractures which left her bedbound for several weeks. She required a significant level of care and assistance from members of her family due to her incapacity and this caused her immense mental anguish, especially as she was previously very active and independent. Her confidence was affected and even after she made a reasonable recovery, she was always on her guard and reluctant to go out on her own.
What should have been a straightforward claim became very protracted. I ended up issuing proceedings against my client’s landlord, their contractors and the subcontractors as none of the parties would accept any blame. They did, however, allege that she was partly to blame for not being more careful.
Eventually, after more than two years, the case settled in full for a five-figure sum without any reduction for the suggestion that my client was partly to blame.