Published: Thu, Jun 1st, 2006

Many of our clients are land owners and will recall the debate surrounding the proposed legislation granting access to waterways over private property. Currently, there are groups of people who may request access to private land, and we believe that all land owners should be aware of who may enter their property.

Rights of access

So what are some of the issues surrounding your rights and liabilities with visitors on your land?

Network Utility Operators can request access to private land. They are usually involved in providing services such as gas distribution, telecommunications, electricity distribution, water supply and drainage or sewage systems.

Before entering onto land, a Network Utility Operator should provide information in writing to the owner. This information should include:

  • the reason entry is required;
  • any rights the land owner may have to object to the entry;
  • a description of the work to be done on the land;
  • who will be undertaking the work;
  • confirmation that any damage caused will be
    remedied or paid for; and
  • a complaints referral procedure.

You do have the right to refuse entry to some operators but you must allow others access in certain circumstances. If you are unsure as to which applies, please don’t hesitate to contact a solicitor at Turner Hopkins.

Health and safety

The Health, Safety and Employment Act 1992 (“the Act”) imposes obligations on land owners in relation to access by third parties onto their land.

The focus of the Act is on identification of hazards in the work place. Residential premises are excluded from the definition of workplace so the provisions of the Act do not apply to most urban residential properties nor does it apply to those parts of a farm used for domestic accommodation.

The purpose of the Act is to ensure that all practical steps are taken to ensure the health and safety for all persons on the property.

Land owners whose properties are a place of work are therefore obliged to take steps to ensure the following people are not harmed by hazards:

  • people in the vicinity of the place of work;
  • employees, contractors and subcontractors;
  • people who are on the land with the owner’s consent and who have paid to be there; and
  • customers.

There are circumstances where a duty of care is not owed to visitors. This includes people visiting for the purposes of leisure and recreation, and also includes trespassers.

Legislated right to access over private farms

The new Government has indicated it may not proceed with a proposal to provide public access over farms and instead may look at alternatives including negotiation with land owners to improve access.

The news has been welcomed by Federated Farmers who say they will be taking a keen interest in the framework for negotiating rights of access.

Have a plan

As the issues of both access and health and safety are closely linked, it is worthwhile for land owners to have a policy in place to deal with them. In particular, it would be wise to ensure that practical steps are taken to manage any existing or potential hazards on the property. For further advice, call a solicitor at Turner Hopkins; we will be pleased to help you.

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