Occupiers’ liability: the duty of care owed to countryside visitors


Occupiers’ liability is the law which covers the responsibilities that occupiers of property have for the safety of those who visit their premises.

Simply put, the law says that an occupier has a duty of care to all visitors and to ensure that their premises are reasonably safe.

This Business Guide explores some of the general principles governing the obligations of occupiers (who may not necessarily be the landowner) to lawful visitors, and unlawful visitors (trespassers).

There are two major pieces of legislation in relation to occupiers’ liability, and it is important to know the difference between the two for the purposes of this guide:

The Occupiers’ Liability Act 1957 covers liability for occupiers with regard to ‘lawful visitors’.

The Occupiers’ Liability Act 1984 covers liability for occupiers regarding persons other than ‘lawful visitors’, such as trespassers.

There will be some references to case law in this guide in order to illustrate these principles. Occupiers’ liability claims are decided based on the facts in each case and those making or defending claims should always take independent legal advice.