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.