Both landlords and contractors engaged in the building and development of properties have responsibilities under the Act but what is the The Defective Premises Act 1972 and how can landlords and contractors protect themselves against the liabilities that arise as a consequence of this act.
What is the Defective Premises Act 1972?
The act was introduced to establish liability for personal injury or property damage suffered as a result of defects in premises. The Act is aimed at creating a duty of care for landlords and also contractors engaged in the construction, development and maintenance of properties. A breach of this duty of care can lead to an action against the landlord or contractor for their legal liability for injury or damage.
What are a landlord’s responsibilities under the Defective Premises Act 1972?
The 1972 legislation replaces the previous and more limited responsibilities of landlords under the Occupiers’ Liability Act 1957 by creating a duty of care under Section 4 to provide safe premises, free from defects for landlords towards both tenants and third parties. This duty extends to maintenance of such an environment where the landlord has a responsibility for the upkeep and maintenance of the property. The duty applies if the landlord is either aware of the defect or should have reasonably been aware of the defects. The existence of this duty of care means that a landlord may have an action taken against them in respect of their legal liability for personal injury or property damage to suffered by both tenants and any third parties.
Landlord’s duty of care in virtue of obligation or right to repair premises demised.
(1)Where premises are let under a tenancy which puts on the landlord an obligation to the tenant for the maintenance or repair of the premises, the landlord owes to all persons who might reasonably be expected to be affected by defects in the state of the premises a duty to take such care as is reasonable in all the circumstances to see that they are reasonably safe from personal injury or from damage to their property caused by a relevant defect.
(2)The said duty is owed if the landlord knows (whether as the result of being notified by the tenant or otherwise) or if he ought in all the circumstances to have known of the relevant defect.
(3)In this section “relevant defect” means a defect in the state of the premises existing at or after the material time and arising from, or continuing because of, an act or omission by the landlord which constitutes or would if he had had notice of the defect, have constituted a failure by him to carry out his obligation to the tenant for the maintenance or repair of the premises; and for the purposes of the foregoing provision “the material time” means— (a)where the tenancy commenced before this Act, the commencement of this Act; and (b)in all other cases, the earliest of the following times, that is to say— (i)the time when the tenancy commences; (ii)the time when the tenancy agreement is entered into; (iii)the time when possession is taken of the premises in contemplation of the letting.
(4)Where premises are let under a tenancy which expressly or impliedly gives the landlord the right to enter the premises to carry out any description of maintenance or repair of the premises, then, as from the time when he first is, or by notice or otherwise can put himself, in a position to exercise the right and so long as he is or can put himself in that position, he shall be treated for the purposes of subsections (1) to (3) above (but for no other purpose) as if he were under an obligation to the tenant for that description of maintenance or repair of the premises; but the landlord shall not owe the tenant any duty by virtue of this subsection in respect of any defect in the state of the premises arising from, or continuing because of, a failure to carry out an obligation expressly imposed on the tenant by the tenancy.
(5)For the purposes of this section obligations imposed or rights given by any enactment in virtue of a tenancy shall be treated as imposed or given by the tenancy.
(6)This section applies to a right of occupation given by contract or any enactment and not amounting to a tenancy as if the right were a tenancy, and “tenancy” and cognate expressions shall be construed accordingly.
Can a landlord insure against their responsibilities under the Defective Premises Act 1972?
Cover is available under the public liability insurance section of a property owners or landlords insurance policy. This extension should be automatically included as part of the standard cover. You should check your policy if any doubt.
What are a contractor’s or developer’s responsibilities under the Defective Premises Act 1972?
The act creates a duty of care for contractors engaged in both the construction and development of new properties and also for contractors engaged in the maintenance, repair or alteration of existing premises. Whilst Sections 1 and 2 of the Act deal with the construction of new properties, it is Section 3 that provides that the duty of care does not cease once work has been completed and the property handed over thereby extending what would otherwise be the contractor’s legal liability arising from the works.
Duty of care with respect to work done on premises not abated by disposal of premises.
(1)Where work of construction, repair, maintenance or demolition or any other work is done on or in relation to premises, any duty of care owed, because of the doing of the work, to persons who might reasonably be expected to be affected by defects in the state of the premises created by the doing of the work shall not be abated by the subsequent disposal of the premises by the person who owed the duty.
(2)This section does not apply—
(a)in the case of premises which are let, where the relevant tenancy of the premises commenced, or the relevant tenancy agreement of the premises was entered into, before the commencement of this Act;
(b)in the case of premises disposed of in any other way, when the disposal of the premises was completed, or a contract for their disposal was entered into, before the commencement of this Act; or
(c)in either case, where the relevant transaction disposing of the premises is entered into in pursuance of an enforceable option by which the consideration for the disposal was fixed before the commencement of this Act.
Can a contractor or developer insure against their responsibilities under the Defective Premises Act 1972?
The cover should be included automatically as an extension to the contractor’s public liability insurance policy.
If you have any queries reagrding the suitability of your current existing arrangements in respect of the Defective Premises Act please call us directly to discuss with one of our specialist brokers.