Homeowners and renters have a duty of care to keep all visitors, and anyone on their property, safe at all times
Every Halloween, thousands of people of all ages dress up in their spookiest outfits and knock on their neighbours’ doors trick-or-treating.
A relatively harmless activity, many youngsters come home armed with bucketfuls of chocolate and sweet treats and want to devour them all in one go – a dentist’s worst nightmare!
But you too could have something of a nightmare if your Halloween decorations are deemed unsafe – or cause damage or injury to anyone on your property or garden – and you could be dealt with a fine of up to £5,000
Under the Occupiers Liability Act 1957, a UK law that still stands today, a homeowner or renter has a “common duty of care” to all of their visitors. This means the homeowner or renter must take care to ensure any visitor is “reasonably safe” when using their premises, both when being invited or simply being permitted to be there.
The occupier must be prepared for children to be less careful than adults, the law explains, and must “appreciate and guard against any special risks” associated with anything in or on their property.
With this in mind, if someone tripped over a Halloween decoration in your garden or in your property, you may be liable for a fine if you’re found to have breached your duty of care for people visiting you.
Lawyers at UK property company Barratt Homes explain: “One thing to remember when creating a creepy porch for Halloween, is that the excited children (and adults!) who will be trick-or-treating need to be able to safely pass through to get to your front door.
“As a homeowner or occupier of a property you owe a duty of care to visitors, and you may find yourself liable if any accidents are caused by the dangerous condition of your property or the decorations you install.
“This duty of care means you should make sure your property is ‘reasonably safe’ including any driveway or steps. If you are aware of a specific hazard, you must take measures to highlight the hazard to those approaching your property.
“To ensure that no one is hurt on their night of trick-or-treating, set up decorations that will keep your house well-lit, and always double check that your lights and their wires will not create a hazard for visitors.
“It is also important to make sure that your driveway / stairs or any other entry points to your home are free from items that could cause people to trip on or walk into.
“You do not have a duty to prevent all accidents, but you are obliged to deliver reasonable care for the safety of visitors to your property. Ensuring everything is safe covers your home insurance and any unwanted liabilities.”
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