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6 October 2017

Preventing claims against your housing association

Preventing claims against your housing association
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Housing associations often suffer large numbers of legal claims, with many of those stemming from litigation from their tenants or the public. No matter what size your organisation is, managing the risks is an ongoing, often time-consuming task. Even if you think you have solid relationships with your tenants, many will resort to a claim if they feel that you have not met their expectations. In this bulletin Arthur J. Gallagher provides advice on how to reduce the likelihood of a liability claim against your housing association, as well as explaining what to do if a claim is made against you.

Whether your properties are maintained by your own Direct Labour Organisation (DLO) or by a contractor, you are equally responsible for any defects or hazards within your properties. The duties demanded of you in the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 and the Defective Premises Act 1972 can sometimes mean that not knowing about an issue is not a valid excuse for failing to maintain a duty of care to your tenants.

Claims can be wide-ranging, from a faulty handrail causing injuries to an elderly tenant to accidents occurring in common areas such as play areas, grassy areas and car parks. Even areas designed to foster community such as cafés and libraries can generate risks. Yet despite this, health and safety assessments are often a point where even the most dedicated housing association falls down. Due to time and budget constraints, associations can be tempted to pick and choose which health and safety risks can be addressed and which can be left. While understandable, unless you consider the whole of the risk, this will often be false economy however, as a single successful claim can generate a domino effect, breeding more and more claims.

Instead, a pro-active approach is recommended, carrying out regular, documented inspections and ensuing the risk assessment develops in line with the results. Thorough documentation is an essential part of your risk management process, and each risk noted should be accompanied with as much background information as possible. This doesn’t just extend to the premises listed above; your Motor Fleet Office sites and DLO operations will also be best served by a routine of inspect, address and risk assessment.

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