Responsibilities of a Tree Owner - An Occupiers Liability

In England and Wales, an occupiers' liability is governed by the Occupiers' Liability Acts 1957 and 1984. In Scotland, an occupiers' liability is governed by the Occupiers' Liability Act (Scotland) 1960.

 

The occupier of the land on which a tree stands is normally liable for any harm or injury if the tree or part of the tree fails.

The occupier is defined as the person 'occupying or having control of the premises'. When a property is rented or leased the person 'having control' may be the owner, agent or tenant depending on the written tenancy agreement.

 

Duty of Care

The law outlines an occupiers' responsibility, known in law as 'the duty of care', to take reasonable care to avoid acts or omissions which he or she could reasonably foresee may result in harm or injury. When an occupier fails to exercise his or her responsibility the result may be a claim for negligence.

 

Negligence

Where A has a 'duty of care' towards B and fails to take any necessary action, resulting in harm or injury to people, animals or property, and if that harm or injury is reasonably foreseeable, then it is likely to be categorised as negligence.

 

Occupiers Liability Act 1957

This Act deals with liability relating to visitors i.e. persons who enter land or premises either by invitation or by permission.

 

Occupiers Liability Act 1984

This Act deals with liability relating to other persons, including trespassers, and it should be noted that occupiers can be held negligent in their duty of care even if injury or damage occurs on land where people do not have access by right or by invitation.

 

Occupiers' Liability Act (Scotland) 1960

This Act makes no distinction between different categories of visitor so that the occupier has an equal duty of care towards all of them.

 

Notes

The Courts expect occupiers to be prepared for children to behave less carefully than adults.

The Courts expect occupiers to make regular inspections of their trees and to take reasonable steps to reduce risk where appropriate.

For specific advice, with respect to the law, please seek qualified legal opinion. For general advice please contact us.

 

Reference

Veteran Trees: Hazards from Trees published by The Forestry Commission

Hazards from Trees published by The Forestry Commission