What to do when a building owner ignores multiple Notices to Fix?

Thames-Coromandel District Council and Rice Speir lead the way with s 220 of the Building Act 2004

In December 2022 Rice Speir successfully obtained orders authorising Thames-Coromandel District Council to carry out building work (including demolition) after a history of non-compliance with Notices to Fix.  After removing the longstanding problematic buildings, the owner is now liable for the costs of the work and a charge on the property guarantees the Council’s recovery of what it spent.

A copy of the District Court’s decision can be downloaded from our website here: Reserved decision of Judge JL Forrest

Background                                                          

The case involved a hodge podge of unconsented or non-compliant buildings.  Over the years numerous Notices to Fix and Insanitary Building Notices had been issued by the Council. All of the Council’s efforts were ignored and the situation seemingly fell into the too hard basket for the owner.

After Rice Speir became involved, the Council issued a final Notice to Fix encompassing all of the unauthorised building work on the property.  Once the compliance date for that NTF came and went, after giving the necessary 10 days’ notice, the Council applied to the Court under s 220 of the Building Act.

Authorisation to carry out building work

Judge Forrest granted the orders sought by the Council, observing that the Notices to Fix had been issued to the building owner and occupier but had been ignored for a lengthy period of time.  The building owners did not engage with the Court process except to send an informal affidavit to the Court protesting the application.

The s 220 order authorises the Council to carry out building work (including demolition) required to make compliant the building works identified in the final Notice to Fix.

The Council was also granted orders making the owners liable for the actual and reasonable costs of the Council’s authorised building work; and even for its legal costs.

The Building Act enables the Council’s costs to become a charge on the land.  This means that a building owner can’t sell their property until the Council is reimbursed, giving certainty around ratepayer costs.

We are thrilled to have recovered for the Council not only its demolition costs, but also what it spent on legal fees to get there.  A fantastic result that should provide other councils with confidence to tackle those historic compliance issues that may be dangerous, insanitary or just unsightly.

You can only lead a horse to water, you can’t make it drink.  Fortunately for Building Act compliance, the Court is there to help when all else fails.

 

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