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What Is Occupiers' Liability?

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  • Written By: C. Daw
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 20 November 2016
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Occupier’s liability relates to what responsibilities that a person has who occupies real property, whether through renting or ownership, if someone were to get injured on their property. The occupier of the property can be defined as the landowner, the tenant, or both, depending on the circumstances surrounding the injury. An independent contractor who is working at the property can also be claimed to be the occupier of the land if the injury occurs around their work area. Occupiers’ liability laws have been debated and changed over the years with intentions of making the rules and regulations clearer.

The first law that was used to regulate the occupiers’ liability was the common law which stated that the landowner had no liability to the person who was injured on their property. The common law did not provide any protection or compensation for the injured person. Eventually, the lack of provisions that were made for compensation led lawmakers to develop official rules designed to protect the injured person. These laws would also make the landowners responsible for compensating the person who was injured.

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The Occupiers’ Liability Act of 1957 was the first law created that held the landowner responsible for the injuries. The act determined that for the landowner to be held responsible for the injury there had to be a defective or dangerous condition of the property that was the cause of the injury. In other words, the landowner must be neglectful and leave their property in a dangerous condition in order to be held accountable for occupiers’ liability. This act also made the distinction between a visitor and a trespasser, and only gave the right to compensation to the visitors. They defined a visitor as someone who had been granted, expressed or implied, permission to be on the property.

After much debate this law was decided that it did not go far enough to protect the injured person so the Occupiers’ Liability Act of 1984 was enacted. This act was designed to now include trespassers to be able to receive compensation if injured. This act also added more detail to how neglectful the occupier must be in order to be held responsible. It states that in order to be held accountable under occupiers’ liability, the occupier must know, or should have known, that the danger existed before the person was injured, and that they must also know that the person is near the danger and does not warn them of the risk. This act determined that a person expects a certain level of protection when they are on someone else’s property.

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