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GDL Law Notes GDL Tort Law Notes

Defective Premises Liability For Animals Notes

Updated Defective Premises Liability For Animals Notes

GDL Tort Law Notes

GDL Tort Law

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Defective Premises & Liability for Animals


Defective Premises

Claims under the Defective Premises Act 1972 relate to landlords and builders as defendants.


Old Law: immunity

  • J. Cooke: ‘The common law was opposed to actions in tort and the landlord was immune from a tort action in respect of dangerous premises … The immunity of a landlord from actions in negligence was confirmed by the Court of Appeal in 1984’ (Rimmer below)

Cavalier v Pope

House let out to C’s husband; the floor needed repairing & the landlord knew about this but didn’t do any repairs. One day she fell through the floor

Held: couldn’t sue the landlord for defective premises. Husband successfully sued in contract

Rimmer v Liverpool City Council

C was a tenant in the property that was being let out. There was a glass panel in one of the walls and C objected to this as he was worried his son would break it and injure himself. The defendant Council said this was a standard design & that they couldn’t do anything about it. C tripped over and put his hand through the glass. Rimmer sued the Council as landlords on the basis that the ‘standard design’ was negligent

Held: a landlord doesn’t owe a duty of care in relation to negligence under the Defective Premises Act, however this particular landlord could be sued as he had designed & built the premises. This made them qualify as a builder or designer, not a landlord.

New Law: 1972 Act

Rather than using the old S.4 Occupier’s Liability Act 1957, which said landlords could be liable for injury caused by the state of premises as an occupier, S.4 Defective Premises Act 1972 is now the appropriate provision for this type of claim, establishing a duty of care as follows:

(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.

  • B. Handy, “The duty under section 4 of the Defective Premises Act 1972 (‘the Act’) is as important as it is confusing. It is often the best and sometimes the only way of successfully claiming for injuries caused by the dangerous condition of rented premises.”

When does the duty apply?

The duty applies only when the landlord has a duty and/or right to maintain/repair property. This duty extends to anyone who might reasonably be expected to be affected by this duty

  • J. Cooke: ‘The duty will be owed where the landlords know, or ought to have known, of a defect which would constitute a breach of their obligation to the tenant to repair the premises. It is not necessary that the landlord knows the precise defect provided that he has failed to take reasonable care in the circumstances of the case to see that the tenant was reasonably safe’.

Sykes v Harry

Landlord let out premises which had gas fires; when the landlord let out the premises the fires hadn’t been serviced in 8 years. C suffered brain damage due to carbon monoxide poisoning. The landlord didn’t know about the defects here, so the question here was whether he should have known?

Held: he should have been aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning as a result of the gas fires; by failing to maintain/repair the gas fires he was in breach of S.4

Who is the duty owed to?

  • J. Cooke: “the duty will be owed to the tenant, residents, neighbours and passers-by on the highway. Whether a trespasser would be a foreseeable claimant is not known”


S.1(1) Defective Premises Act 1972 establishes a duty of care as follows: to ‘a person taking on work for or in the connection with the provision of a dwelling … to see that the work which he takes on is done in a workmanlike or, as the case may be, professional manner, with proper materials and so that as regards that work the dwelling will be fit for habitation when completed.’

  • J. Cooke: ‘Parliament created a limited form of protection from builders…[in the form of] a three-part duty: that the work will be done in a workmanlike manner, proper materials will be used, and that the house will be fit for human habitation’.

When does the duty apply?

S.1(1) is limited to ‘dwellings’.

Catlin Estates Ltd v Carter Jonas

To do with the definition of ‘dwelling’ - whether or not a shooting lodge was a dwelling

Held: (HC)“a dwelling-house is a building used or capable of being used as a dwelling-house” (helpful!) and not used primarily as an industrial or commercial purposes – the shooting lodge was seen as a dwelling-house

Rendlesham Estates Plc and others v Barr Ltd

Held: defines dwelling as ‘a place where...

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