What does property owner’s liability mean?

Property owners (e.g. the owner of a house) are, under the provisions of  Article 58 (1) of the Code of Obligations, liable for any damage caused by the defective construction, fitting or maintenance of their building or other structure.

This is a so-called simple causal liability. Liability exists even if the property owner is not personally at fault.

A work (or structure) is an immovable piece of property (e.g. roads, buildings, ski slopes, some sports facilities or playground equipment) that is constructed or fitted out through human intervention. It is either attached directly to the ground or to something that is.

A work defect exists if the structure does not provide sufficient safety for the use for which it is intended. Property owners may also assume that the structure will be used for the purpose for which it was designed and that users/occupiers will exercise a minimum amount of caution. For example, depending on the specifics of each individual case, an iced-over pathway up a house, confusing signs for road traffic, or poorly marked steps in the anteroom to toilets in a hotel could all be considered work defects. In case of a construction defect, the property owner is liable regardless of whether or not they were aware of the defect. In case of a maintenance defect, property owner’s liability depends primarily on whether inspections could reasonably be expected and whether there was time to remedy the defect.

Several rulings from the Federal Supreme Court have concerned property owner’s liability. You can find these on the website of the Federal Supreme Court (www.bger.ch).

These are complex issues and should not be faced alone. XpertCenter AG is here to help with all your recourse cases. Simply give us a call.