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QUESTION: “I own a parade of shops. One of the retailers leaves its rubbish outside its store on a communal forecourt. A customer has tripped over some of the scattered rubbish and is claiming damages for injuries. Am I liable?

The answer is potentially yes. The retailer who left the rubbish is clearly liable because it owes a duty of care to the customer and should be taking reasonable and effective steps to avoid risk arising. Systems should be in place to ensure that rubbish left outside is not scattered so that becomes a tripping hazard.

As landlord you are generally responsible for common areas and owe a duty of care to customers using those areas. Whether the landlord is also liable to the injured customer will depend upon whether the landlord has satisfied it sown legal duty.

You will normally expect the lease to contain a covenant whereby the retailer agrees not to obstruct or interfere with the use of common areas. But imposing an obligation is not in itself sufficient to prevent the landlord also being liable to the injured customer. The landlord must also take steps to ensure the tenant complies with its own obligations.

Therefore, in these circumstances, if the landlord has been aware of the problem and positively taken action to regularly the tenant that it needs to comply with its obligations, the landlord should not be liable.

However a landlord that has neglected to impose proper obligations in the lease in the first place or, having imposed the obligations, simply turns a blind eye to the problem, potentially could be liable for the injuries suffered.

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