Empty Dwelling Management Order, Swale

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The above property in Swale had been empty for the previous 9 months. The owner had to move away from the area but had been unable to secure the sale of the property due to the level of outstanding debts against the property. The property had a number of mortgages and charges secured against it.

The owner had considered renting the property to provide an income to help offset his liabilities. However, the property needed considerable work, approximately £12,000, to put it into a lettable condition, but the owner was not in a financial position to fund these works.

Due to the financial position of the owner, he would not have been eligible for an interest free loan on the basis that there was insufficient equity in the property to secure the charge against.

Consequently, the owner found himself unable to sell the property, but continuing to incur significant out goings, which was increasing the level of debt.

Swale Borough Council therefore considered the use of an Empty Dwelling Management Order, in partnership with the owner, to try and bring the property back into use.

WHAT ARE EMPTY DWELLING MANAGEMENT ORDERS

New powers, known as Empty Dwelling Management Orders, introduced by the Housing Act 2004, allow councils with housing responsibilities to take over the management of some residential properties that have been empty for more than six months. The property does not have to be run down or uninhabitable. The fact that it has not been lived in for more than 6 months may be enough to allow an Empty Dwelling Management Order to be made.

An Empty Dwelling Management Order cannot be made on a property where one or more of the following statements are true:

• It is not a dwelling e.g. it is a building or part of a building used for non-residential purposes.
• It is not wholly unoccupied e.g. only part of your house is unoccupied or there are spare rooms not in use.
• It has been lived in at any time within the previous six months.

The six month exception period applies to all empty dwellings regardless of the reason they are unoccupied. However, even after six months, a lot of unoccupied dwellings will continue to be excepted as long as one or more of the following statements are true:

The property is normally your only or main residence, but:
• you are temporarily residing elsewhere;
• you are absent so that you can be cared for elsewhere;
• you are absent because you are caring for someone elsewhere; or
• you are in the armed forces and are away from home on service.

The property is occupied occasionally by you or your guests as a second home or a holiday home.

The property is genuinely on the market for sale or to be let.

You are expecting to inherit the property, but have not yet obtained grant of representation (probate) following the death of the previous owner. In this case, the property will continue to be excepted for six months after you obtain grant of representation.

In all, there are ten such excepted categories, some of which apply only in specific circumstances such as where occupation of the dwelling is normally linked to a job. (hyperlink to exceptions exemptions legislation) http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts2004/en/04en34-d.htm

It is possible for one exception to apply after another one has ended. For example, if you decide to sell a property that was previously used as a second home or the owner died following a period living in a nursing home, it will continue to be exempted.

WHAT IF MY PROPERTY IS NOT EXCEPTED?

Even if none of the above statements applies, before taking the matter further the council must ask if you have any plans to bring your property back into use. If you can demonstrate that you are actively pursuing plans to bring the property back into occupation in the near future the council will not be able to get the approval it needs to make an Empty Dwelling Management Order.

If none of these statements applies, the council may consider making an Empty Dwelling Management Order, although it does not have to. Whether it does will depend on a number of factors, including the priority the council gives to taking action to deal with empty properties / the empty property. Most council’s publish a strategy about this which should set out the general approach they will take, what enforcement powers they may use, and in what circumstances.

WHAT IS AN EMPTY DWELLING MANAGEMENT ORDER?

An Empty Dwelling Management Order (EDMO) gives the council the right to take possession of the property. Once an EDMO has been made, the council may do anything you would normally be entitled to do with the property, such as entering it to inspect its condition. The council does not take over ownership of the property, but is entitled to take possession of it and can prevent you from using it or letting someone else use it whilst the order is in force.

There are two types of EDMO. An interim EDMO lasts for an initial period of 12 months, during which time the council must try to work with you to agree a way of getting your property back into use. It may ask you for permission to let the property to someone. If no agreement can be reached with you, the council may seek to make a final EDMO, which can last for up to seven years. You will have fewer rights to decide how the property is brought back into use under a final EDMO. If the council cannot reach an agreement with you and decides not to make a final EDMO, it must hand back possession of the property to you.

WHO DECIDES IF AN EMPTY DWELLING MANAGEMENT ORDER SHOULD BE MADE?

A council cannot make an interim EDMO without getting approval from the independent Residential Property Tribunal (RPT) www.rpts.gov.uk . The Tribunal will decide if the order should be allowed and, in doing so, will make sure the council has followed the correct procedures. The Tribunal does not have to approve the order if it considers there are good reasons not to do so. It must be satisfied that:

• the property has been unoccupied for at least six months and is unlikely to be occupied in the near future;
• the council would be able to find someone to occupy it;
• the property is not covered by one of the exceptions; and
• the Tribunal must also consider the effect the order would have on your rights.

Ultimately, it is up to the tribunal to decide if the order should be made. It is not under any obligation to do so and will have regard to all the relevant facts in making its decision.

WHAT HAPPENS ONCE AN INTERIM EMPTY DWELLING MANAGEMENT ORDER HAS BEEN APPROVED?

If the Tribunal is satisfied that an interim EDMO should be made, it will approve the order provided by the council.

The council becomes responsible for the day to day management of the property and must consider the best way to get it occupied. It must obtain your consent in writing before the property can be occupied. If you are willing to allow the council place a tenant in the property, it may decide to end the order if you are also prepared to lease the property to them on a voluntary basis or agree some other way to get it brought back into use. This will give you an opportunity to agree the terms of the lease with the council. If you do not agree to allow the council to place a tenant in the property, it must either make a final EDMO to replace the interim order or end it without taking further action.

WHO PAYS FOR ANY COSTS INCURRED UNDER AN EDMO?

The council will incur costs in managing your property. For example, it may have to pay an agent, such as a housing association or a private management company, to look after the property on its behalf. It may also decide the property needs some work to get it into a fit state to be lived in. You will not normally have to pay any money towards these costs. The council will pay them and seek to recover its expenditure from any rental income it receives from tenants whilst the order is in force. The council must pay you any money that is left over after it has deducted its expenditure and may pay you interest on this money.

What happens if the council does not cover its costs?

During an interim EDMO, because the council cannot let the property without your permission, if you refused to allow the council to let the property and it considers that you did this unreasonably, any costs it incurs may be recovered from you.

However, if the council makes a final EDMO to replace the interim order, it may decide to carry these costs forward and seek to recover them from any subsequent rental income it receives. In all other case, if the council cannot generate enough income from rental payments to cover its costs it generally cannot ask you to pay the shortfall unless you agree to do so, for example, as a condition to allow the order to be brought to an end before the council had recovered its costs from rental income.

HOW WOULD THE COUNCIL RECOVER MONEY FROM ME?

There are numerous methods a council can use to recover debts owed to it. An EDMO is a local land charge and will be registered in the local land charges register held by the council. The council may also apply for it to be entered in the register of title for the property held at the Land Registry. This means if you want to sell the property, your buyer will be aware of the charge and you will need to assist in its removal. The council will not normally remove the charge unless any money owned to it has been paid.

During an interim EDMO, the council will only be able to recover money it has spent with your agreement, or any other expenditure it reasonably incurs to ensure that the property becomes occupied and properly managed, including insurance costs. Because the council cannot let the property without your consent, it may decide not to undertake any significant work without your agreement to allow tenants to move in. However, it is more likely to deal with any immediate problems such as clearing rubbish away from gardens or dealing with potential health hazards.

APPLICATION TO THE RESIDENTIAL PROPERTY TRIBUNAL

The schedule of works to bring this property up to a reasonable standard was agreed with the owner. This was put out to tender through the in-house Home Improvement Agency, and three quotes obtained.

Swale Borough Council then made an application to the Residential Property Tribunal, for an interim EDMO. As part of the Application, all mortgagors, and those parties with charges against the property, were invited to be joined to the hearing. Initially, there was an objection from the main lender, however after further negotiations, the objections were withdrawn.

EMPTY DWELLING MANAGEMENT ORDER AWARDED

On confirmation of the Interim EDMO being awarded, Swale Borough Council instructed contractors to start on site, secured appropriate insurance, and works should be completed with 4 weeks.

The owner signed up with Avenue Lettings on a private sector leasing basis for a number of years. This will provide a guaranteed rental income, which will be paid directly to Swale Borough Council, to cover the cost of the works at the property.

It is hoped that the debt will be paid back to Swale Borough Council within 20 months, enabling the owner to utilise future rental income towards other financial liabilities.

Guidance on Empty Dwelling Management Order from gov.uk
Guidance for Empty Property Owners PDF from gov.uk

77 Eastern Esplanade

Recovery Method: Enforced Sales Procedure: Section 103 Law and Property Act 1925

Legislation: Section 78 Building Act 1984 – Dangerous Buildings – Emergency Measures

BACKGROUND

The property at 77 Eastern Esplanade was a key target of the No Use Empty campaign after its serious structural defects became a major problem for Thanet District Council. Protected scaffolding had to be erected around the property to protect the public from falling masonry and two dangerous chimneys stacks that were leaning precariously had to be demolished.

The condition of the property was such that, if significant and substantial remedial works were not carried out, there was a very real concern that the property would deteriorate to such a point that it was beyond economical repair and demolition would have to be considered.

Following the death of the owner, the property was passed on to various family members throughout Saudi Arabia. Consequently, the Solicitor acting for the estate could not sell the property on the open market, as the ownership of the property could not be fully established, leaving the council to foot the bill for the work carried out.

A sale was then enforced on the property in April 2007, following which Town&Country Housing Group, one of Thanet District Council’s preferred affordable housing partners, have brought the property back into use.  When work started the property was boarded up, with windows missing and major infestation by pigeons in the upper floors. Due to missing slates from the roof, water had been poring through the property for a number of years, causing serious decay, including dry and wet rot.

The four one and two bedroom flats have been refurbished and were offered for sale on a shared-ownership basis, allowing for those on a low income to get on to the property ladder by owning part of the equity of the property. Shared-owners are able to acquire additional equity at a later stage when they can afford to and rent is paid on the share of the property they do not own. When marketed the flats ranged in price from £100,000 to £140,000. Purchasers were able to buy as little as 25% share and pay rent of 2.7% on the remaining portion.

ENFORCED SALES PROCEDURE

Where there is a debt to the Council, created as a result of the Council undertaking works in default, as in this case, the Council can use the Law&Property Act 1925 (Power of Sale), to recover the debt.

The Law of Property Act 1925 states that a Local Authority with a debt on a property can, under certain circumstances, registers the debt as a first charge with the District Land Registry.  This would even take precedence over a mortgage, if there were any.

Once registered, the Council can then ask for the debt to be paid in full.  Where the Owner fails to pay the debt, the Council can enforce the sale of the property, just like a mortgagor in possession.

The Council has recovered their reasonable costs out of the proceeds from the sale and the rest of the monies will be held in trust for the Owner.  Once the ownership of the property has been resolved, the funds will be transferred to the owner.

Winchelsea Terrace

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This house had been empty for more than 10 years and was suffering from significant water damage from a leaking roof. The property was raising concerns within the community because of the deteriorating condition. The Council explored a number of options before deciding to compulsorily purchase the property, which resulted in the owner agreeing to sell the property to the Council.

The Council sold the house on following a standard competitive tendering process. There were a number of strict conditions about bringing it back into use within a reasonable period of time. All conditions have been met and the keys have been handed over to a first time buyer who completely renovated the property.

Hardwick Road

hard after hard beforeThe compulsory purchase of a property is always a measure of last resort, but where the owner fails to engage with the Council in a constructive matter and previous action has failed to resolve the issue, then compulsory purchase will be considered.

This semi-detached property had been in a very poor condition for 20 years and had been the subject of repeated complaints from neighbours.  Despite numerous assurances from the owner that works would be completed, the property remained in poor condition.

The Council had started compulsory purchase proceeding, but continued to negotiate with the owner. Following full Council approval to instigate compulsory purchase proceedings, the owner decided to sell the property to a local developer, who renovated the property within three months and it now provides a home for a local family.

50 Royal Road

Recovery Method: Enforced Sales Procedure: Section 103 Law and Property Act 1925

Legislation:
Section 78 Building Act 1984 – Dangerous Structure (Emergency Measures)
Section 79 Building Act 1984 – (Ruinous and Dilapidated)

BACKGROUND

Thanet District Council originally became involved in this case as a result of a dangerous structure.  In 2004, the bay window to the first floor front elevation was becoming detached, representing a danger to local residents.

Consequently, they served a notice under Section 78 Building Act 1984, requiring the owner to undertake remedial works to remove the danger. The owner failed to comply with the terms of the notice.

Consequently, the Council completed the works in default. The cost of which can then be recovered from the owner.

Further concern was raised over the very poor condition of the living accommodation above the commercial element of the property, including the structural integrity of the floors, which were suffering from significant dry and wet rot.
Due to very serious health and safety concerns, a Closing Order was served under the previous Housing Act 1985 (as amended), requiring the owner to vacate the property. As a result of this, the owner was re-housed by the Council.

Negotiations with the owner over an extended period of time were unfruitful. The owner refused to sell the property and had no funds to contribute to the renovation of the property.


Then in 2008, the property suffered a major arson attack resulting in the property being substantially damaged. As a result the Council served a notice under Section 79 Building Act 1984, due to the ruinous and dilapidated condition of the building.

 

The owner had no insurance on the property as is often the case where the property has been vacant for a number of years.

The Council decided that the most appropriate way forward was to enforce the sale of the property to recover the debt owed to the Council, under the original dangerous structure noticeENFORCED SALES PROCEDURE

Where there is a debt to the Council, created as a result of the Council undertaking works in default, as in this case, the Council can use the Law and Property Act 1925 (Power of Sale), to recover the debt.

The Law of Property Act 1925 states that a Local Authority with a debt on a property can, under certain circumstances, registers the debt as a first charge with the District Land Registry. This would take precedence over a mortgage, if there were any.

Once registered, the Council can then ask for the debt to be paid in full. Where the Owner fails to pay the debt, the Council can enforce the sale of the property, just like a mortgagor in possession.

The new owner, a local developer then had the responsibility to comply with the terms of the notice served under Section 79 Building Act 1984.

After some negotiation the developer was granted planning permission for conversion of the property into three good quality apartments.

The conversion and renovation of the property was completed and all three apartments have since been sold to local people

AUCTION

If you think your property is suitable for selling in Auction and is a long term empty property, then please contact your local Empty Property Officer, to assess whether you would be eligible for this discount.

Granville Street

gran after gren beforeThis property was served with a Closing Order in December 1990, which prevented it from being occupied due to its poor condition. It has remained empty ever since.

The Council secured ownership of the property through a Compulsory Purchase Order in 2006 and then sold it to a developer on the understanding that it would be renovated to Decent Homes Standard. Works were completed in 2008 and the property let to a family.

Demolition underway on eyesore site in Cliftonville

The former Warren Court Hotel in Arthur Road has been one of the key targets of the Council’s empty property initiative, after it became derelict and was the victim of two fires.  The property has been a major eyesore and has blighted the local community for a number of years.

 

The Council had previously served a number of statutory notices on the owners, requiring them to carry out remedial works to improve the condition of the property.

 

These included:

  • Section 4 : Prevention of Damage by Pest Act 1949 (Accumulation of Rubbish)
  • Section 78 : Building Act 1984 (Dangerous Structures)
  • Section 79 : Building Act 1984 (Ruinous&Dilapidated)
  • Section 215 : Town&Country Planning Act 1990 (Detrimental to the Amenities )

 

The owners failed to comply with any of the notices, resulting in the Council undertaking some of the works in default.  Despite repeated attempts by the Council to engage with the owner to encourage the redevelopment of the site, no planning applications were forth coming.

 

Consequently, due to the condition of the site and the owner’s reluctance to bring forward proposals, the Council offered to purchase the property at market value.  The valuation would have been determined by an Independent RICS Valuer.

 

However, the Company wanted a price that was 5 times greater than its actual value.  This was perhaps exacerbated by the fall in the local housing market due to the recent credit crunch, which has had a substantial affect on property values.

 

Consequently, with no reasonable prospect of the condition of the property being resolved, the Council proceeded with Compulsory Purchase (CPO) proceedings under Section 226 Town&Country Planning Act 1990.
The owners appealed against the CPO and the matter was referred to a Planning Inquiry for arbitration. Two days before the Planning Inquiry the owners withdrew their appeal and the Compulsory Purchase Order was confirmed by the Secretary of State.

 

However, before it was implemented, the Council was able to reach a voluntary agreement with the owner of the property for them to sell it to the Town and Country Housing Group at market value.  The cost of making the Compulsory Purchase Order was funded from Kent County Council’s ‘No Use Empty’ campaign.  The ‘No Use Empty’ campaign was set up by Kent County Council in partnership with the 12 District and Borough Councils in Kent.

 

Town and Country Housing Group submitted plans to Thanet District Council last year, which were approved, to build 12 three-bed houses and convert the properties in Arthur Road to eight two-bed flats.  The development includes the reinstatement of a terrace, which originally formed the third side of Dalby Square.

 

The scheme of 20 units of affordable housing in the newly designated Conservation Area will bring a much needed improvement to Dalby Square.

 

The Scheme costs are in the region of £3.3 Million, the funding for this scheme is made up of:

  • £1.2 Million (Homes&Community Agency)
  • £200,000 (Thanet District Council)
  • £1.9 Million (Town&Country Housing Group)

 

In addition, Thanet District Council has contributed some land to make the scheme viable.

 

An archaeological dig has already been completed on the site and demolition works have begun to remove the fire-damaged structure behind the façade of the former Warren Court Hotel, which will be retained.  The demolition work is expected to continue until the end of June, which will be followed by the building work.  The development is expected to open in autumn 2012.

Cllr. Chris Wells, Cabinet Member for Community Services, said “It’s fantastic news to finally see demolition work underway on this eyesore site that has plagued the local area for so many years.  Our empty property officer has worked exceptionally hard to get to this stage.  It hasn’t been easy and we had to go down the Compulsory Purchase Order route before we were able to make real progress on this.  Now people can finally see results with a stunning development planned that will deliver 20 new affordable family homes that are desperately needed in Thanet.  I’m sure that will be widely welcomed, given the complaints we’ve received about this property over the years.”

 

Town and Country’s New Initiatives Manager, Tim Warren, said “We have been working closely with Thanet District Council on the regeneration of the Cliftonville West Renewal Area and Dalby Square is at the heart of this.  The scheme is seen very much as a catalyst to others investing in the area.  It will make a remarkable difference to the area and we are proud to be playing our part in making it happen.”

 

Steve Grimshaw, Kent County Council Project Manager, for the ‘No Use Empty’ campaign, said “It is important that with house-building declining, we look at ways that we can utilise unused buildings to create affordable, quality housing. Thanet District Council has worked tirelessly to ensure this site will have a future and we are delighted to be involved in a project that, as well as providing 20 much needed homes, will also help revitalise the surrounding area.  This will serve as a template for future large scale re-developments which will allow us to deliver quality housing in a cost effective way.”

The Arcadian

hotel advertBuilt in the 1880s, it was originally Lilley’s Hotel Arcadian, a 19th century bolt hole for genteel Victorians leaving smog riddenLondon for Margate’s fresh sea air.

The Arcadian was subsequently converted into twelve flats.

The property had been unoccupied for many years and run down to the point of dereliction, reducing a once iconic building to a major eyesore.

Discussions with the freeholder had been ongoing for a number of years, with no real prospects of the project moving forward.

Turner ContemporaryThe Arcadian is located directly opposite the proposed new iconic £17 Million, Turner Contemporary gallery.

It became a priority for Thanet District Council to deal with the condition of the Arcadian, which was having a negative impact on the surrounding area.

Consequently, Thanet District Council served a notice under Section 215, Town&Country Planning Act 1990, requiring the freeholder to improve the external appearance of the property.

Case Studies: Section 215 Town&Country Planning Act 1990

The freeholder failed to comply with the terms of the notice and it was clear that without direct intervention by the Council, the property would remain in a poor condition.

Consequently, the Council instigated Compulsory Purchase proceedings under section 226 Town&Country Planning Act 1990

The freeholder lodged an appeal against the Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) and the matter was to be dealt with by a Planning Inquiry.

Mr Berger, one of the leaseholders approached the Council to discuss the option of him purchasing all interests in the Arcadian. On that basis he asked whether the Council would withdraw the CPO

Due to the time constraints surrounding the imminent opening of the Turner Contemporary, the Council was not prepared to withdraw the CPO.

 

Turner Contemporary

However, if he was able to acquire all interests in the property, ensure that the current objection against the CPO was withdrawn and carried out those works specified in the Section 215 Notice, then the Council would be prepared to withdraw the CPO.

This partnership approach was agreed. The Council secured the CPO, but did not proceed to the General Vesting Declaration (GVD), which would have vested the property into the Councils ownership.

Mr Berger, eventually secured all relevant interests on a voluntary basis, with all parties being aware that should there be no agreement, the Council would proceed with the GVD.

Mr Berger, then prioritised the external works required by the Section 215 Notice and to be faithful to the Victorian character and history of the building, replicated the Arcadian’s wrought iron balcony and hotel signage.

His effort was recognised by the Margate Civic Society, Town Pride Awards 2011.

Once the external works had been completed, Mr Berger continued with the comprehensive renovation of the Aracdian.

The total development costs for the project was in the order of £1 Million. Kent County Council, through the No Use Empty Initiative was able to provide an interest-free loan of £175,000, with Mr Berger providing the rest of the funding.

The project comprising of 14 one and two bedroom apartments, was completed in November 2011.

The development carefully replicates The Arcadian’s original wrought iron balcony and hotel signage, meaning the Victorian character of the building is retained. Inside, the well-presented apartments are spacious, with Victorian high ceilings and large, panoramic windows. The internal finish includes hand fitted kitchens and solid wood worktops and some apartments have private balconies.

All the apartments have been let, reflecting the high demand for good quality accommodation.

 

Steve Grimshaw, Project Manager for the No Use Empty scheme said:

“It is important that with house-building declining, we look at ways that we can utilise unused buildings to create quality housing. Thanet District Council has worked tirelessly to ensure this site will have a future and we are delighted to be involved in a project that as well as providing 14 much-needed homes, will further aid the regeneration Margate Old Townfollowing the arrival of the Turner Centre earlier this year.”

Geoffrey Berger, developer of The Arcadian said:

“In the current climate it is extremely challenging to get re-developments of this nature off the ground, and I am grateful to the No Use Empty scheme&Thanet District Council for the assistance they have provided, financial and otherwise, to help turn my vision for the site into a reality.”

Inside Kent Magazine – Issue 9, page 22


Open publication – Free publishingMore 9

Town & Country Planning Act 1990 – Section 215


Recovery Method
Recovery through the Courts: Enforced Sales Procedure
Introduction
It is a well established that poor condition properties have an adverse affect on the neighbourhood.  Anyone unfortunate enough to have lived next door to a long term empty property will understand the frustration and misery such a situation can create.

The “Broken Window Syndrome”, once a property looks to be in a poor condition and suffers minor vandalism; this often gives the green light to cause more significant damage. Early, intervention will result in a minimal cost to the owner, but once a property suffers significant damage the cost to the owner can be overwhelming.

The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors estimates that properties adjoining poorly maintained homes can be devalued by as much as 18%.

When looking  at regeneration of an area, properties in a poor condition are a disincentive to other owners to invest in their home, causing a spiral of decline. If owners can see that the worst properties in their area are being improved, then they are more likely to invest in their own properties.

The Town & Country Planning Act 1990 (the Act) provides a local planning authority (LPA) with the power, to take steps requiring land to be cleaned up when its condition adversely affects the amenity of the area.

If it appears  to the local planning authority that their  area is being adversely affected by the condition of neighbouring land and buildings, they may serve a notice on the owner requiring that the situation  be remedied. These notices set out the steps that need to be taken, and the time within which they must be carried out.

The local planning authority  also have powers to undertake the clean up works themselves and to recover the costs from the landowner.

The use of s215 is discretionary and it is therefore up to the local planning authority to decide whether a notice under these provisions would be appropriate in a particular case, taking into account all the local circumstances.

The local planning authority  will consider, for example, the condition of the site, the impact on the surrounding area and the scope of their powers.

In some circumstances s215 notices may be used in conjunction with other powers, for example, repair notices in respect of listed buildings or dangerous structure notices.

SCOPE OF POWER
Section 215 can be used  effectively on large vacant industrial sites, town centre  street frontages, rural sites, derelict buildings, and semi-complete development as well as the more typical rundown residential properties and overgrown gardens.

The scope of works that can be required in s215 notices is wide and includes planting, clearance, tidying, enclosure, demolition, re-building, external repairs and repainting.

DEFINITION OF ‘AMENITY’
‘Amenity’ is a broad concept and not formally defined in the legislation or procedural guidance, ie it is a matter of fact and degree and, certainly common sense. Each case will be different and what would not be considered amenity in one part of an  area might well be considered so in another. The local planning authority will generally consider the condition of the site, the impact on the surrounding area and the scope of their powers in tackling the problem before they decide to issue a notice.

Non compliance
The local planning authority has the option to prosecute for non-compliance and /or to carry out the works themselves. The course of action pursued will be dependent on the circumstances of the case. Where the local planning authority undertakes the works in default, then formal debt recovery procedures will be followed. This includes securing a charge against the property and recovery of the debt through  the County or High Court bailiffs or even the enforced sale of the property .

Generally, the local planning authority will try and resolve matters to preclude the need to use formal notices. However, where owners fails to engage constructively with the local planning authority, then formal notices will be served.

Town & Country Planning Act Section 215 – Best Practice guide

Housing Act 2004 – Improvement Notices


Legislation

Section 11 and 12 Housing Act 2004

Recovery Method

Enforced Sales Procedure: Law and Property Act 1925

Introduction

The above property came to the attention of Thanet District Council following a complaint from a neighbour, whose own property was suffering water penetration as a result of the poor condition of the neighbouring property.

The property had been empty for over 9 years and further investigations showed that the Owner had died in 2002. There were indications that the Owner had two sons, but all attempts to trace them had failed.

Access to the property was secured via a warrant issued by the Magistrates Court. A full inspection of the property showed that there were a number of serious hazards and the property required complete renovation to bring it up to standard. The most immediate works were those to deal with the damp penetration problem to the neighbouring property.

The Housing Act 2004 introduced a new system to assess the standard of accommodation. The housing health and safety rating system (HHSRS), is a risk based system for deciding whether a house is healthy and safe. In total, there are 29 categories of hazards assessed, for each hazard we consider the likelihood of injury or ill health.

If you would like to know more information on the type of hazards or how the HHSRS works, then please see Operating Guidance

Consequently, Thanet District Council served two Improvement Notices under Section 11&12 Housing Act 2004, requiring the owner to carry out repairs to bring the property up to a reasonable standard. The first notice dealt with the neighbours concerns, the second notice which contained the majority of the renovation works, was suspended until there was a change in ownership.

The Council undertook the works in default in relation to the first improvement notice. Where there is a debt to the Council, created as a result of the Council undertaking works in default, as in this case, the Council can use the Law &Property Act 1925 (Power of Sale), to recover the debt.

The Law of Property Act 1925 states that a Local Authority with a debt on a property can, under certain circumstances, register the debt as a first charge with the District Land Registry.  This would even take precedence over a mortgage, if there were any.

Once registered, the Council can then ask for the debt to be paid in full (3 months).  Where the Owner fails to pay the debt, the Council can enforce the sale of the property, just like a mortgagor in possession.

When the owner of a property has died you may be able to establish who owns the property by searching the probate register  run by HM Courts Service.

In some cases where someone dies without any known living relatives and without a will,  the property is passed to the Crown and is administered by the Bona Vacantia service of the Treasury Solicitors.

Consequently, as the Council was unable to find any living relatives, the case was referred to the Treasury Solicitors. Further investigations by the Treasury Solicitor paid dividends and the Owners Sons contacted the Council.

As the Sons lived away they asked the Council to continue with the enforced sales procedure and to manage the sale of the property.

The Council then placed the property in Auction to obtain best price for the owners. The No Use Empty Scheme and the District Council’s work in partnership with Clive Emson auctioneer‘s. If the property has been identified as a long term empty and is sponsored by an Empty Property Officer, then the Auctioneer will offer to sell the property through auction at a reduced fee. Thereby, saving the owner money.

The property was sold to a local developer, who applied for planning permission to put and extension above the existing structure. The property was then developed to a high standard and was sold to a local family.

The Council recovered their debt from the sale proceeds and the rest of the funds where paid to the two sons.