Liability over fallen fence in high winds

Question from Steve updated on 18th November 2010:

Strong winds have blown down a fence on my property which has damaged my tenants car - am I liable for the damage caused? Would normal property insurance generally cover this kind of risk?

Our expert Jeff Montgomery responded:

Landlords have an obligation to ensure the premises are maintained in a reasonable state of repair, and comply with all the relevant health, safety, and building regulations. If lack of maintenance was a contributing factor in the fence coming down, the landlord may have some responsibility. If the damage was not a result of any fault of either the landlord or tenant (e.g. solely as a result of extreme weather conditions) the responsibility is a lot less certain.

Both parties may wish to discuss this issue with their insurer to determine if their policy would apply in this situation. Liability may also depend on who owns the fence. If the fence is on your boundary, there may be shared liability with the neighbour. If the fence is not on your land, the owner of that property may have some liability. If both parties cannot agree where the responsibility lies, either party can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to have the matter resolved.

To discuss your situation further, or for information about landlord responsibilities, you can visit the Department of Building and Housing website (www.dbh.govt.nz), or call 0800 TENANCY (0800 836 262).

The Department of Building and Housing provides information and guidance on building law and compliance, services including weathertight homes, and advice for tenants and landlords.

 

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