RESPONSIBILITY: Laurie Hilton says most of us are not covered for public liability when mowing our footpaths.
RESPONSIBILITY: Laurie Hilton says most of us are not covered for public liability when mowing our footpaths. Craig Warhurst

Legal fears: Don't bet the house

LAURIE Hilton has a message that no-one wants to hear, particularly those in charge at Gympie and Sunshine Coast Regional Councils.

The long-term Kilkivan resident admits he is putting a cat among the pigeons after discovering that he could lose his house, just for doing what he is told is his civic duty.

And he has discovered that the same applies at the Sunshine Coast, where he has family members suffering the same dilemma.

Laurie discovered recently that his home liability insurance policy would not cover him if he caused some accidental injury while mowing his footpath.

Perhaps many householders don’t want to hear about it either, but Laurie says that’s the kind of blissful ignorance that could cost them everything they have worked for all their lives.

“The council tells me it’s my job to mow the footpath but they won’t indemnify me against legal action if the mower chucks a stone at a person, causing injury or a passing car, causing an accident.

“I used to mow a neighbour’s lawn. You help people when you can.

“But now you wonder if you can afford to take the risk.

“The council tells me they will let the grass grow to 700mm before they’ll mow it.

“But if you do the job, you could lose your house, unless you get extra insurance.

“If you don’t and you injure someone, you may have to sell your house for $300,000 and you’re on the street.

“But that’s not going to give him his eye back either,” he said.

Mr Hilton believes council now needs to indemnify householders against the costs of legal action which may result from cleaning up their own footpaths and nature strips.

“I rang up and asked, ‘Who accepts liability?’ and they say they won’t.

“The council says they can’t accept responsibility, because if they do, rates will have to go up.

“But the rates are astronomical already, they really are,” he said.

“We pay $967 a half year out here and that’s for a property where we still have to do a 100km fortnightly round trip to do the shopping.”

Laurie has solved his own problem for the time being. He’s bought extra insurance.

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