Landlord held responsible by French court for squatter’s fall in flat

The victim, who had not paid rent for more than two years, was hospitalised when a rusty guard rail broke in the property

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A landlord was liable for an accident when a tenant fell in their property – even though there was an eviction order for non-payment of rent, France’s highest court has ruled.

The ruling deals a blow to government efforts to encourage people to rent out houses by making it easier to evict squatters.

No rent had been paid by the couple in the Paris flat, whose address was kept secret, for more than two years when the accident happened in 2012.

Owner contests liability

The woman was hospitalised when a guard rail in front of a window broke while she was leaning on it, because the metal had rusted at the point it was fixed to the wall. She claimed €4,000 from the owner of the house, while Cpam claimed €56,431 in medical fees.

The owner’s insurers refused to pay, insisting the owner had not had access to the flat since the tenants moved there in 1995 and that, in any case, a court had ordered the victim’s eviction in 2011 for unpaid rent.

The Cour de cassation ruled in September that the owner was still responsible for the maintenance of the building and so the tenant should be awarded her money.

‘Ruling is part of a bigger problem’

Théo Berthet, co-owner of Squat Solutions, which specialises in buying squatted buildings and then getting the occupants to move on, said: “The decision is difficult to accept for anyone who rents out property.

“What it highlights too is the big problem with government attempts to make it easier to get tenants who do not pay rent and squatters expelled – the courts grant orders but the prefectures refuse to implement them because they say squatters need a social housing offer first.

“A huissier de justice armed with a court order needs backing from the police to enforce an eviction, but prefects are refusing to order that.”

Mr Berthet added that the ruling would encourage other people squatting illegally.

“We deal with squatters all the time and one thing is certain: they follow the law on squatting very closely. I am sure it will lead to copycat claims.”

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