Legislation

Legislation Photo


Powys would prefer to work directly with empty home owners to encourage properties back into use on a voluntary and mutually cooperative basis; however an enforcement route may be followed, if considered appropriate, particularly where owners refuse to engage or meet their responsibilities. Intervention may be necessary where the physical fabric of an empty property compromises health and safety or structural integrity of adjacent buildings.


There are a number of legislative tools local authorities may use to target owners of empty properties. If necessary, these are used to force owners to bring properties up to an acceptable standard. Enforcement is particularly important when failure to act would result in a detrimental effect on the wider community.


Empty property work can involve input from several different local authority departments to ensure compliance and confirm any previous enforcement against a particular property or owner. History of previous action and non compliance (if any) is essential to determine the most appropriate course of action and dictates what advice and/or assistance is provided in each individual case.


 





Legislative Powers Available


 


Housing Act 2004 - Several sections may be used under this act including the Housing Health and Safety Rating System. Depending on severity of the situation, outcomes range from service of improvement notices to demolition orders (see specific sections). 


 


Environmental Protection Act 1990 - Section 79-81 where a premise causes a health risk or nuisance and repair work is required to make it safe. This provides a powerful tool which can lead to criminal prosecution and conviction for failure to comply with an Abatement Notice.


 


Prevention of Damage by Pest Act 1949 - Section 4 enables the Local Authority to serve notice on the owner/occupier of the land to ensure the premise is free from pests and harbourage of vermin. Empty properties may therefore be cleared and treated using this legislation.


 


Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982 - Section 16 of this act is used to request information regarding ownership from property owners. Section 29 is used to undertake works on unoccupied property to secure them against unauthorised entry. 48hr notice of the Council’s intention to carry out work is required. However, if the owner is absent or urgent works are required, the notice period can be waived. Reasonable costs may be recovered from the owner via the County Court.


 


Town and Country Planning Act 1990 - The Local Authority is able to take enforcement action against owners who fail to maintain their properties and are considered seriously detrimental to the amenities of the neighbourhood. The terms of this legislation are wide ranging and it is the role of the Local Planning Authority or a duly authorised officer to interpret this definition. Although this option does not culminate in a final use for the property, it is a tool that will be considered as an interim measure to make the situation more tolerable for neighbouring property owners. Within the Brecon Beacons National Park, this legislation is enforced by National Park Officers.


 


Building Act 1984 Sections 77-79 - for dilapidated and/or dangerous buildings and sites. Several sections of the Building Act 1984 can be used to secure premises against unauthorised entry and are appropriate for use in the case of empty properties. Section 76 is a shorter procedure for premises which are in such a state as to be Prejudicial to health or a nuisance and where the use of notices under section 80 of the


Environmental Protection Act 1990 would cause undue delay. Notices served under this section of the Building Act state that the Council intend to carry out specified work to remedy the situation. Only seven days are provided for the owner to make an appeal and within nine days of serving the notice, the Council can commence work in default and recover reasonable costs from the owner.


If the vacant premises involved are in such condition as to be considered dangerous, notices can be served under section 77 or 78 of the Building Act 1984. Section 78 is only used in emergency situations, although it is recommended that the Council seek to notify the owner of their intended action prior to undertaking the emergency measures. Notices served under section 77 require the owner of the property to carry out any work necessary to obviate the danger or to demolish the structure if this is a preferred action.


Reasonable expense incurred by the Council can be recovered from the owner of the premises via the Magistrates court. In the most extreme cases of ruinous and dilapidated buildings, notices can be served under section 79 of the Building Act 1984. However, it must be stressed that conditions must be seriously detrimental to the amenities of the neighbourhood and these provisions would normally only be used if other courses of action were considered unsuitable or had not proved effective.


 


Housing Act 2004 Section 11 / 12 Improvement Notice - This is a possible course of action for dealing with category 1 or 2 hazards and must at the very least remove any category 1hazard(s). A Hazard is the effect which may result from a fault and which has the potential to cause harm. A Fault is a failure of any component part, facility or amenity of a dwelling, e.g. a wall, window, staircase, bath, means of lighting, or means of space heating, whether that failure is inherent, or a result of deterioration or a want of repair or maintenance. A Notice can cover more than one hazard, and perhaps require different completion times. Failure to carry out the required works in the Improvement Notice within the specified time frame is a criminal offence.


There are 3 specific legislative tools that might be recommended to bring an empty home back into use for housing need:


 


Empty Dwelling Management Order (EDMO): If the owner of an empty property does not have a valid reason and makes no effort to ensure it is re-occupied, the Local Authority may seek an EDMO. This results in property management moving to the Local Authority or nominated party e.g. Housing Association for a period of up to 7 years. The owner is not entitled to receive any rent or other payments from anyone occupying the dwelling and may not exercise any rights to manage the dwelling whilst an EDMO is in force. This route of enforcement action can only be enacted upon the specific approval of a Residential Property Tribunal.


 


Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO): Similar to an enforced sale, a CPO is another option available to the Local Authority and demonstrates a zero tolerance towards empty properties. However, the Council would only consider this option if the owner had no realistic plans and would not consider any voluntary options for returning it to use.


Absentee landlords of empty properties, particularly those in a very poor state of repair may find they lose ownership of that property if they do not cooperate to bring the property back into use. The Local Authority could decide to dispose of it on the open market or to a housing association.


CPOs can be made under S17 of the Housing Act 1985 or under S226 (as amended by Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, for the provision of housing accommodation or to make a quantitative or qualitative improvement to existing housing.  


 


Demolition Order Housing Act 1985 (Amended by Housing Act 2004): Where the Local Authority is satisfied that the most satisfactory course of action, (having considered the Government Code of Guidance) is demolition, it may serve a Demolition Order. The location of adjacent buildings is a key factor in determining the viability of this option. This may be a lengthy process and involves undertaking a neighbourhood renewal assessment.


 


Enforced Sale: If an owner fails to comply with a notice served under the following statutory provisions, the authority may elect to undertake works in default, to ensure compliance. Such work may result in a land charge being applied to that property which can result in instigation of the Enforced Sale procedure.