With Britain expecting to face up to 22 inches of snow today, it is important for all Residents’ Management Companies and Property Managers to understand how best to prepare their properties. Darren Bagnall, Operations Manager at London Flats Insurance, discusses what steps should be taken and the legal liabilities of RMC’s and Property Managers.
- First port of call – what does the contractual documentation say about RMC and Property Manager’s responsibilities? For Property Managers, is the property agreement explicit regarding duties to grit or clear snow? If so, gritting the property should take precedence.
- If the land is adopted by the Highways authority and there is no specific agreement, the duty rests with the Highways authority.
- Where land is not adopted but privately owned, the responsibility for taking reasonable steps to ensure the health and safety of visitors to the property lies with the RMC or Property Manager.
The legal position is straightforward:
According to Section 2 of the Occupiers Liability Act 1957:
“The common duty of care is a duty to take such care as in all the circumstances of the case it is reasonable to see that the visitor will be reasonably safe in using the premises for the purpose for which he is invited or permitted by the occupier to be there”.
In other words, reasonable steps will have to be taken to ensure that visitors do not slip
and injure themselves as a result of the accumulation of snow or ice on the premises.
The extent of this duty will be a matter of fact and the degree of action will depend on the type of property concerned. There are certain types of considerations which RMCs and Property Managers should take into account during icy weather, as well considerations which the Court would take into account if a visitor was injured due to these harsh weather conditions:
- Was there an advance assessment of premises?
Sites need to be surveyed ahead of time to identify and agree with operators which areas need to be gritted and how this should be done. This will help to ensure that the right equipment is provided and used. Large areas like car parks may require gritting vehicles, whereas smaller areas may require manual spreaders and shovels. Different areas should be prioritised according to different factors such as the extent of common use and the reason for prioritising should be recorded.
- Resource the task appropriately.
Winter gritting can be time-consuming, so it is best to ensure that a sufficient number of staff are allocated to the task. Time may need to be set aside for training or property managers may need to set aside resources for external contractors. Using undertrained staff who fail to do the job properly can lead to litigation risks if a visitor is injured and subsequently brings forward a personal injury claim. The training of staff (if task is carried out internally) will ensure that right volume of salt is used and that the coverage is uniform throughout all relevant areas.
- Grit according to conditions.
Monitoring weather conditions will make it possible to actively manage how much material to spread and when.
- Check the Insurance status of contractors.
If the task is outsourced, the insurance status of the service provider should be checked. If they are uninsured, this is a factor that the Courts will take into account when considering whether Property Managers have discharged their duty of care to visitors by outsourcing the work to a particular service provider.
- Make sure that all work carried out is documented.
When dealing with extreme weather conditions, there are always accidents that can still happen even if everything that could reasonably have been done has been done. In this scenario, it is essential that a detailed record of the action that has been taken is documented thoroughly. This is important, as if a claim for personal injury is brought forward, it will be necessary to prove to a Court that all reasonable steps were taken.
Keep an eye on the weather at https://www.bbc.co.uk/weather
For more information, please contact a member of the team on 020 7993 3034.
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