Blog: Occupiers Liability for Property Managers

CLA Midlands Rural Surveyor John Greenshields looks at Occupiers Liability for Property Managers

This is the time of the year when you should be looking the risks on the unit you manage. Before you get busy with spring operation or lambing you should have everything ready for the months ahead, especially where you use seasonal labour and have public access over the land. Unfortunately, one must be fully prepared to have appropriate cover to protect yourself from accidents occurring on your property, whether it is directly your fault or not.

Your duty and liability is broken down into two categories. There is a duty to visitors (covered by the Occupiers Liability Act 1954) and a duty to unlawful visitors (as covered Occupier’s Liability Act 1984) which are those who you have not invited onto the premises. For both you owe a duty of care, so you must ensure that your premises are reasonably safe but there are important distinctions between your responsibility towards the two distinct types of visitors. As such, you should have risk assessments, keep the land as safe as reasonably possible and ensure you have appropriate insurance. With this area it is essential that specific advice is sought. You can contact your regional office for more information.

Occupiers' Liability Act 1957 imposes a fairly onerous duty of care on occupiers to ensure that all visitors are reasonably safe. You must make sure there are no potential dangers on the premises or give sufficient warning of any that there are. However, you must note that signage does not provide protection if you choose not to make a site safe.

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As already indicated, the 1984 Act covers unlawful visitors, including trespassers. For these individuals you have a duty of care towards, so lets see what criteria must be satisfied in order to prove that you have taken reasonable steps to comply with your duty of care. The criteria you must assess comprises three steps. The first is that you must consider if there are any threats or dangers on your property that exist, including those which you believe may exist, not just those that you know of. So an example may be a body of water that is more dangerous than you may think or the presence of mines which you are aware of. You must take reasonable steps towards reducing the risk of these sites. In order to demonstrate this you must have some form of written records of such assessments, as well as photos.

These risks must be looked at especially where you know there are people within the vicinity, whether a nearby highway or settlement. So you should look to take steps to minimise risks. The easiest way is to stop people wandering in the first place. So in the case of highways, including footpaths, having clear route signs, well maintained paths and where necessary physical boundaries can help people safely enjoy the route without getting lost.

Signage can also be used near hazards, highlighting their presence and warning people off. Physical boundaries can be established in order to reasonably prevent people from getting to dangerous sites. With all this, it is case specific and specialist advice should be sought.

Farm Safety

It is always a good time to think about your farm infrastructure and practices to ensure that farm safety is always considered. Especially when daylight hours are short and we can still be subject to a frost, with all the consequences associated with underfoot conditions and the risk of cold if someone is injured. Lone working arrangements should be considered and not just the normal checks of machinery and the working environment. Do you have a risk assessment for the farm? Do you have appropriate equipment? Is there an up-to-date First Aid kit which you know how to use? Do you have an easy to access map with key contacts?


Many may take walks with family around this period too. It is important that you bear in mind your duty of care but also whether or not you are creating any long lasting rights. For more information please view the CLA’s website.

Security and Safety

There are always steps that can be undertaken to improve your security, especially when you live in an isolated property or if you are making use of student lambers.

Other points to consider:

  • Ensure that everyone, including family members, have been given a thorough introduction to everything including where the First Aid is and key contacts. This should be documented.
  • To improve security you may wish to install CCTV, increased lighting and have appropriate useful signs. You may also wish to write bespoke instructions and get them laminated. So that, if ever needed, neighbours for example could help keep the farm ticking over.
  • Do you have lockable gates and other walls/ditches that can provide security for your business. All public access must be kept clear, with a good surface and be free from obstructions.
  • Conduct Health and Safety Risk assessments for having people coming onto the farm and try to keep the farming operations as separate as possible.
  • Invite the Police out to do an assessment and get yourself linked up with any local Police communication network.
  • Equipment, feed and medicine is all stored properly and securely. With there being some thought / evidence that there is good husbandry. The cattle handing is in a good condition, lights work and there are no trip hazards etc. If there are any quad bikes coming onto your land you should make sure there is appropriate insurance and a helmet is worn. If you don’t have a helmet and high visibility item then it would be worth getting. For machinery ensure all is maintained and in working condition.
  • Have you got First Aid equipment and have had sufficient training? Do you have toilets on-site that can be accessed?
  • Compliance with farm cross compliance requirements.
  • Check your insurance policy wording.

Please feel free to contact CLA Insurance for more information.

Key contact:

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John Greenshields Rural Surveyor, CLA Midlands