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Preserving the integrity of heritage properties vs an organisation’s obligations to its visitors

By Alan Liddiard, Ecclesiastical's heritage underwriting expert.

Owners of heritage buildings who open their doors to the public may be concerned by the possibility of receiving a public liability claim.  We have found that this often stems from misunderstanding the duties they actually face.

welcome sign - blog sizeIt’s all about what is reasonable. In terms of a claim, what is reasonable depends on factors such as the nature of your premises, its age and the number of visitors it receives. For example, visitors shouldn’t have unrealistic expectations of floor surfaces and surroundings when visiting a heritage property. So much of the beauty and character of these properties stems from their quirkiness and interesting features.

First of all, you are not under a duty to warn visitors of a risk which is or should be obvious to any visitor such as worn down steps or uneven surfaces. When a court considers what is ‘reasonable’, they will look at the risk of injury occurring and how serious an injury may be against the cost of implementing preventative measures and maintaining the ‘social value’ of the activity or premises concerned.

In the case of younger visitors, children are likely to be less careful than adults; but it is ‘reasonable’ to assume they will be supervised by an accompanying parent or guardian who will keep them safe.

You must be alive to the nature of the visitors you are trying to attract and ensure their reasonable needs are met. The introduction of new attractions, fairground rides for example, can significantly affect your risk profile as well as place you under additional regulatory obligations.

If you need more information talk to your insurance broker and make sure you’re all set to enjoy sharing your heritage property with your visitors. You can also download our guide to defending heritage public liability claims.

Ecclesiastical Insurance Group plc (EIG) Reg No 1718196. Ecclesiastical Insurance Office plc (EIO) Reg No 24869. Ecclesiastical Life Ltd (ELL) Reg No 243111. Ecclesiastical Financial Advisory Services Ltd (EFAS) Reg No 2046087. Ecclesiastical Underwriting Management Ltd (EUML) Reg No 2368571. E.I.O. Trustees Ltd Reg No 941199. EdenTree Investment Management Ltd (EIM) Reg No 2519319. All companies are registered in England at Beaufort House, Brunswick Road, Gloucester GL1 1JZ. EIO and ELL are authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Firm Reference Number 113848 (EIO) and 110318 (ELL). EFAS and EIM are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Firm Reference Number 126123 (EFAS) and 527473 (EIM). EUML is an appointed representative of EIO who is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Firm Reference Number 402228.