Property owners and landlords have a duty of care to their tenants, to ensure a rented home or business premises are safe from obvious hazards and are maintained to a good standard of repair. However, looking at the worrying numbers of accidents that occur in homes and public establishments in the UK every year, it appears that not all landlords are fulfilling this requirement.
According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA), almost 6,000 people die from home-related accidents every year in the UK and 2.7 million individuals are rushed into hospital for emergency care resulting from home accidents.
The true number of home-related accidents must be considerably more when you consider that many may only need home or GP care, rather than emergency treatment.
With common accidents including trips and falls, burns, choking, accidental drowning and household poisoning, liability does sometimes lay with the individual home dwellers. However, there are some instances where a landlord’s negligence directly leads to a tenant suffering serious injuries. In these cases, the law offers a legal recourse for tenants who get hurt due to their landlord’s disregard or poor execution of their responsibility and you could make a personal injury claim against a landlord.
Legal Provision For Filing A Personal Injury Claim
Whether you are doing business in a privately owned rental property, renting from a letting agent, or residing in a council house/social housing (i.e. public housing built and managed by a local authority), you have the right to occupy a danger-free space.
Your landlord has the responsibility of ensuring you are not harmed (physically or otherwise) by living or working in an unsafe environment that they own and rent out. The law is very clear on this as per provisions in the ‘Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.’
It outlines a landlord’s obligations, which include:
- Providing a place to live (or work in) that meets the basic standards of safety, health, and habitability
- Carrying out regular maintenance works and doing house or building repairs when necessary.
- Areas covered under this rule include roof & chimney, interior and exterior walls, exterior structures (e.g. a stairway, shed, driveway, garden, etc.), floors, windows, electrical, gas & water supply areas, drains and gutters.
- Conducting regular health and safety checks with directives set, such as carrying out a gas safety check every 12 months and checking electrical supplies every five years. Landlords are also supposed to ensure that every floor in a property has a working smoke alarm and if there is a solid fuel combustion appliance then a carbon monoxide detector is also a requirement. Of course, it is still a good idea to have one fitted even if the property only has standard gas and electric appliances.
- If a property is rented out as a house of multi-occupancy (HMO) such as student accommodation, there are even more stringent fire safety regulations including providing fire extinguishers and fire blankets etc. In all cases, clear escape routes should be available and be free from hazards.
- All these rules apply, regardless of what your tenancy agreement says. Therefore, if your landlord fails to meet any of the afore mentioned obligations and their negligence leads to you suffer an injury or harm, you are well within your rights to make a personal injury claim against them. As with all lawsuits of this nature, there is a statute of limitation, whereby you only have a 3-year window from when the injury occurred to pursue compensation.
What Qualifies As A Personal Injury?
Several home-related injuries can qualify for a negligence claim against the landlord. Also, if a landlord letting out a commercial space fails to address a safety hazard which then leads to a customer suffering an accident, the business owners could hold the proprietor (landlord) to account through legal means. A few of the more common injuries of this nature include:
1 Slips, Trips & Falls
Negligence claims against landlords are quite common in the slips, trips and falls category. The reason for this is because this type of incident can occur in so many different ways. For example, you might trip over uneven floorboards or a faulty staircase step, or fall if a handrail gives way, or slip on a slippery floor (e.g. smooth floor tiles in the bathroom). You could even fall or have an accident due to inadequate or lack of lighting, etc. There can be many avoidable hazards that contribute to these kinds of accidents and injuries.
2 Personal Harm
This can range from electrocution from faulty wiring to getting cut by broken glass or suffering a blow from (or being buried under) a falling object in the house (ceiling beam, wall shelf, etc.). Suffering burns from an improperly maintained hot water pipe or a house fire resulting from gas leakage can also qualify for personal injury compensation.
3 Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
With the landlord legally obliged to provide a living space that is free of avoidable hazards and health risks, carbon monoxide poisoning from faulty equipment qualifies for a personal injury compensation claim against a landlord. However, you will have to prove that your landlord knowingly avoided taking the necessary measures to prevent or stop a CO leakage.
4 Respiratory Health Problems
For this, the cause would need to be considered an avoidable health risk, such as mould resulting from penetrating damp or damp caused by other structural faults. Remember, however, that day-to-day general upkeep of a property is usually the responsibility of the tenant. So, for example, you would be expected to keep a room aired or use an extractor fan in a bathroom etc to avoid the build-up of condensation.
Steps To Take In The Wake Of Injury
One thing every tenant should know is that you are entitled to make a request for property repairs from your landlord, especially when you are dealing with serious issues such as a leaking roof, broken kitchen sink, defective boiler, and so on.
Officially, you are required to make the request in writing and hand it over to your landlord (or letting agent) who has up to 20 working days to address your concerns. If there is no response by then, you have the option of filing a compensation claim for disrepair.
If you later suffer an injury due to the issue raised in your letter and your landlord failed to act on your warnings, it could be considered evidence that your landlord ignored their obligations and neglected to provide a safe environment. This is likely to work in your favour when making a claim.
However, assuming you never made the request for repair and you have suffered an injury at your rented property/business premises due to no fault of your own, the best course of action is to proceed as follows.
1 Take Photos Of The Accident Scene
One of the things you will need to provide in a personal injury claim is proof of your landlord’s negligence. Photographic evidence capturing the state of the housing disrepair or dangerous object etc that caused your injury is a helpful tool when filing for landlord negligence.
Understandably, taking pictures is not always possible since a lot of home accidents occur when the victim is alone and seeking medical help for your injuries must be the priority, especially if serious. However, if you can, have a relative or neighbour take the photos on your behalf or do it yourself immediately after returning from the hospital, especially if the accident scene is still intact or unchanged.
2 See A Doctor And Keep Records
After the accident, it is essential to have your injuries assessed by a doctor, even if they are as minor as a muscle strain or sprained ankle. Seeing a doctor will result in the generation of medical reports, which will serve as crucial evidence in supporting your case. It is also important to write exactly how the accident happened, as soon as you can, before your memory of the incident fades or becomes distorted.
3 Consult A Personal Injury Solicitor
Regardless of how straightforward your case appears to be or whether you have a staggering amount of evidence on your side, you should still seek expert advice and consult with a solicitor.
Only a qualified professional will be able to study your situation and determine if you have a valid case for compensation. What’s more, a solicitor will advise you on whether to accept any settlement deal that may be offered by your landlord’s legal representative, or determine whether you should in fact request a higher compensation amount or take the matter to court.
What Should You Expect From A Landlord Negligence Claim?
A personal injury claim starts with your solicitor informing your landlord that you will be filing a complaint through a ‘letter of claim.’
The law gives the defendant/landlord 21 days to provide official acknowledgment of receiving the claim, whereby they either accept or deny liability in writing. In the case of your landlord accepting liability, your lawyer will then begin negotiating a potential settlement.
A personal injury claim can only proceed to court if the other side denies responsibility and your solicitor deems it that you have a valid case and have the necessary evidence to prove negligence/liability. It is worthwhile to note that court proceedings for these types of personal injury claims can take anywhere from several months to more than a year, dependant on the individual circumstances.
If everything goes your way and you ‘win’ the case, the court will order the landlord (or his insurer) to provide you with monetary compensation. In most cases, a personal injury settlement will pay out for two different types of damages.
The name ‘general damages’ factors in the extent of your injury and awards compensation for the pain (physical and mental), suffering and loss of quality of life which resulted from the injury.
On the other hand, ‘special damages’ is the name given to all the out-of-pocket financial expenses incurred, such as loss of pay (and future pay if relevant), cost of travel to and from medical appointments, prescription costs etc, basically any financial loss incurred due to your injury. Therefore, remember to keep all your receipts!
It is not possible, in this guide, to guess what kind of settlement figure you could be awarded for a successful personal injury claim against your landlord, as each case is individual. However, previous cases have awarded compensation anywhere from a thousand pounds up to and in excess of two hundred thousand pounds. As you would expect, the more serious the injury the higher the compensation awarded.
To Sum Up: Making A Personal Injury Claim Against A Landlord
Taking your landlord to court can be a scary decision to make. Many people worry that their landlord might retaliate by evicting them or increasing the rent. However, the truth is that the law offers all-round protection for tenants in these circumstances and your solicitor will be able to reassure you and make you aware of your rights.
We believe that no-one should suffer an injury due to the negligent actions of another and so, if you wish to proceed, a claims advisor is ready to review your individual case and can help claimants seek the compensation they deserve.
Many solicitors offer a no win-no fee arrangement, which means the legal costs will be taken from the final settlement and do not require up-front fees. Aside from filing a personal injury claim, you can also make landlord negligence claims for property disrepair, non-protected deposits, discrimination, and unlawful eviction.
Therefore, you do not have to suffer in silence. If you fall victim to landlord negligence which causes an injury at home or place of business, consult with a legal professional today and get the help and compensation that is rightly due to you.