The wisdom of checking that those doing work for you are properly insured is illustrated by a recent case.

It involved a man who was hired to do casual labour for a builder working on a house. The builder was uninsured. The man needed to access a flat roof and asked the homeowner’s permission to use an upstairs window of the house in order to do so. The homeowner refused, however, so the man used a ladder instead. As he was climbing it, he fell and was injured.

The labourer sued the owner of the house, arguing that she had ‘exercised control’ over his work to a sufficient degree for the relevant health and safety legislation to make her liable for his injury. He also claimed that she had refused to pay for the work to be done in a safe way.

The court ruled that the house owner did not exercise control over the man’s work. She was entitled to impose control over access to her property and refused the request as an occupier, not as someone who was controlling how the man did his work. How the work was done was under the control of the builder.

This case will come as a relief to those who employ builders. It clearly arose because the man’s employer (the obvious target) was uninsured, whereas household insurance policies usually include liability insurance.

If you are using builders at your house, ask to see evidence that they hold appropriate insurance. Even though the homeowner won this case, she will have endured months of stress because of it. Had the builder been insured, the homeowner’s involvement in litigation would probably have been limited to giving a witness statement.