By Sarah Carlisle
While you are a visitor at someone else’s home, the owner or occupier of the home owes a duty to take reasonable care for your safety.
Hazards such as inadequate lighting, rain on driveways and paths, rotting decking, loose balustrades, falling foliage and other debris are all prone to cause accidents in the home setting.
Occupiers are not expected to ensure that their property is completely hazard free, they are simply expected to take reasonable care.
Home and contents insurance usually includes public liability insurance to cover home owners for accidents and injuries involving their visitors.
Silwood v Chandler  QCA 273
The Queensland Court of Appeal decision of Silwood v Chandler  QCA 273 confirms that a very high standard of care can, in certain circumstances, be imposed on home owners/occupiers.
In that decision, the Queensland Court of Appeal affirmed the Supreme Court’s finding that the occupier of a residential premise was negligent when a visitor slipped on the front steps which were ‘wet, slippery and shrouded in darkness’.
The plaintiff, the mother of a two-week old baby, was delivering the child to its father to relieve her of child care duties while she caught up on some sleep.
She arrived at approximately 8:30pm and she was approaching the front door when she slipped, fell and suffered injury.
Her arrival at the home was arranged in a prior telephone conversation with the occupier.
Earlier that day, the occupier had hosed the wall adjacent to the steps to remove bat droppings from it and had done nothing to dry the area afterwards.
What the occupier knows and the visitor does not
Both the trial Judge and the Court of Appeal agreed that a reasonable person in the occupier’s position, with knowledge that:
would have appreciated there was a risk that the Plaintiff would slip on the front access path and be injured.
What the occupier could have done
The home occupier should have:
The home occupier was negligent for failing to take any of these steps and that negligence was found to have caused the Plaintiff’s accident.
Although we are not required to ensure our home is completely free from all hazards, where an occupier has knowledge or ought to appreciate a certain risk exists at their home and the risk is not one which will be readily apparent to their visitors, the occupier is required to take steps to reduce the risk or at least bring it to the visitor’s attention.