The tenant, a women aged 40, tripped while climbing a flight of three steps leading to the front door of her first floor flat, a property owned by her landlord. It was alleged that the steps were dirty, wet and “unduly slippery” as a result of being painted. The claimant also argued that the wall at the side of the steps was too low and there was no guardrail or handrail to prevent the risk of falling down to the basement level.
To support the claim, breaches of different Acts were referred to, including a failure by her landlord to observe clauses of the Occupiers Liability Act 1957 as well as a breach of common law. It was determined that the issues of the case were dependent on whether the duties of the landlord were bound by one or more sections of different legislation.
Under The Occupiers Liability Act 1957, a duty of care is to be provided so that a visitor will be reasonably safe when invited or permitted to use the premises by the occupier. Section 4(6) of the Act points out that observance of the clause does not mean a landlord is not bound by any other duty he is required to carry out. Under Section 4 of The Defective Premises Act 1972, a landlord’s duty of care refers to the obligation or right to repair the premises.
Act would appear to be ‘general in application’
The judge found that the Occupiers Liability Act 1957 was not applicable. Not only was the claimant an occupying tenant (not a visitor) but also the Act would appear to be ‘general in application’. The judge said that a landlord’s duty was defined by Section 4(6) of the Act, adding that “Parliament could not have intended both sections to define a landlord’s duty.”
In addition, Section 4 of The Occupiers Liability Act 1957 had been replaced by Section 4 of The Defective Premises Act 1972 in defining a landlord’s duty, which was similar but not identical in its terms.
The judge held that, where personal injuries resulted from a failure to carry out a repair, a landlord’s “duty of care” would be confined to and determined by clauses set out in Section 4 of The Defective Premises Act 1972. However, where the Act did not apply, then a landlord owed a duty to take “reasonable” care not to create an unnecessary risk of injury. The judge therefore concluded that there had been no breach of duty and the claimant’s case was dismissed.