Occupiers' Liability Act 1984

Occupiers' Liability Act 1984

The Occupiers' Liability Act 1984 is a significant piece of legislation in English law that outlines the duties of occupiers towards individuals who are not considered lawful visitors, such as trespassers. This Act supplements the Occupiers' Liability Act 1957, which primarily deals with lawful visitors. The 1984 Act addresses the responsibilities of occupiers to ensure the safety of trespassers and other non-visitors under specific circumstances.

Scope and Purpose
The primary objective of the Occupiers' Liability Act 1984 is to extend certain protections to individuals who enter premises without permission. While the 1957 Act deals with lawful visitors, the 1984 Act acknowledges that occupiers may still owe a duty of care to those who are not legally on their property. The Act seeks to balance the rights of occupiers with the need to prevent serious injury or harm to trespassers and other non-visitors.

Definition of Occupier and Premises
Similar to the 1957 Act, the 1984 Act defines an occupier as anyone who has control over premises, whether through ownership, lease, or another form of control. Premises are broadly defined to include land, buildings, and any fixed or movable structures, ensuring comprehensive coverage under the Act.

Duty of Care
Section 1 of the Occupiers' Liability Act 1984 establishes the conditions under which an occupier owes a duty of care to trespassers and other non-visitors. The duty arises if the occupier is aware of the danger or has reasonable grounds to believe it exists. It also applies if the occupier knows or has reasonable grounds to believe that the trespasser is in the vicinity of the danger or may come into the vicinity of the danger. Additionally, the risk must be one against which the occupier may reasonably be expected to offer some protection. This duty of care is more limited compared to the duty owed to lawful visitors under the 1957 Act, focusing on preventing serious injury rather than ensuring general safety.

Standard of Care
Section 1(4) of the Act specifies that the duty of care owed to trespassers requires the occupier to take such care as is reasonable in the circumstances to ensure that the non-visitor is not injured by the danger. This standard is contextual and considers factors such as the nature of the premises, the potential severity of the danger, and the practicability of taking precautions.

Section 1(5) of the Act allows occupiers to discharge their duty of care by taking reasonable steps to give warning of the danger or to discourage persons from incurring the risk. However, the warning must be clear and effective in conveying the presence of the danger to potential trespassers. Simply posting a warning sign might not suffice if the danger is significant and not readily apparent to the visitor.

The Act provides several defences that can limit an occupier's liability. These include contributory negligence, where the trespasser's own actions contribute to their injury, and volenti non fit injuria, where the trespasser willingly accepts the risk. Additionally, occupiers can argue that they took reasonable steps to warn of the danger or to prevent access to the hazardous area.

Comparison with the Occupiers' Liability Act 1957
While both the 1957 and 1984 Acts deal with the responsibilities of occupiers, they cater to different categories of entrants. The 1957 Act provides comprehensive protections for lawful visitors, requiring occupiers to ensure general safety. In contrast, the 1984 Act imposes a more limited duty towards trespassers, focusing on preventing serious injury from known dangers. This distinction reflects the law's attempt to balance the protection of individuals with the rights of property owners.

The Occupiers' Liability Act 1984 extends the responsibilities of occupiers to include certain protections for trespassers and other non-visitors. By establishing a duty of care under specific conditions, the Act seeks to prevent serious injury while balancing the rights of occupiers. The application of the Act in case law further refines its principles, ensuring that it addresses contemporary issues of occupiers' liability in a fair and practical manner. The 1984 Act complements the 1957 Act, together providing a comprehensive framework for occupiers' liability in English law.
Back to blog
UOL Case Bank

UOL Case Bank

Upon joining, you become a valuable UOL student and gain instant access to over 2,100 case summaries. UOL Case Bank is constantly expanding. Speed up your revision with us now.

Subscribe Now

Where are our students from?

Yale University
Council of Europe
Baker Mckenzie 
University of Chicago
Columbia University
New York University
University of Michigan 
University College London (UCL)
London School of Economics (LSE)
King’s College London (KCL)
University of London
University of Manchester
University of Zurich
University of York
Brandeis University
University of Exeter
University of Sheffield
Boston University
University of Washington
University of Leeds
University of Law
Royal Holloway, University of London 
Birkbeck, University of London
SOAS, University of London
University of Kent
University of Hull
Queen’s University Belfast
Toronto Metropolitan University
Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
University of Buckingham

  • Criminal Practice

    Diagrams and Charts

    Our carefully designed diagrams and charts will guide you through complex legal issues.

  • Criminal Law

    Clear and Succinct Definitions

    Key concepts are concisely defined to help you understand legal topics quickly.

  • Property Law

    Statutory Provisions

    Statutory provisions are provided side by side with legal concepts to help you swiftly locate the relevant legislation.

  • Public Law

    Case Summaries

    We have summarised important cases for you so that you don't need to read long and boring cases.

  • Evidence

    Rules and Exceptions

    Rules and exceptions are clearly listed so that you know when a rule applies and when it doesn't.

  • Company Law


    Legal terms and key concepts are explained at the beginning of each chapter to help you learn efficiently.

  • Case Law

    Case law is provided side by side with legal concepts so that you know how legal principles and precedents were established.

  • Law Exam Guide

    Law Essay Guide

    You will learn essential law exam skills and essay writing techniques that are not taught in class.

  • Law Exam Guide

    Problem Question Guide

    We will show you how to answer problem questions step by step to achieve first-class results.

  • Conflict of Laws

    Structured Explanations

    Complex legal concepts are broken down into concise and digestible bullet point explanations.

  • Legal System and Method

    Legal Research

    You will learn legal research techniques with our study guide and become a proficient legal researcher.

  • Jurisprudence and Legal Theory


    All essential concepts, principles, and case law are included so that you can answer exam questions quickly.