Squatted Property

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My predecessors used to say that a squatted property is no longer an empty property, so the case was always closed. Pah. I've had several of these, mainly 'long term Class F's'. My approach is to use normal EH powers to rid the place of public H&S risks, serving notice on "the Owner" and "The Personal Representative of the Owner" "the Estate of the Late Miss Havisham". And I serve by posting to the door of the property. This may generate debts that will become useful Charges later on.

Even if the rubbish is put there by the squatters or fly-tippers, it is the owner's responsibility to keep their property free from risk/hazard. I have not heard of LAs using CPN's under the ASB, Crime & Policing Act 2014 on squatters, but can see their benefit. It might be a useful way of proving criminality that you need as evidence to get the Police to act upon.

If the owner is not around, the owner will probably not know squatters are in, and therefore will not have asked them to leave. Before notifying the Police, I discuss the case with the ASB Team to build a case to present to the Police. As ASB Teams often work closest with Police, it is best to give your intel to your ASB colleagues. 

We build a case with the following range of aims. Police use powers to persaude squatters to leave/Closure/arrest of squatters.

We want to Police to use a Closure Order under Part IV of the ASB, Crime & Policing Act 2014 OR use s144 Legal Aid, Sentencing & Punishment of Offenders Act 2012. The problem with the latter is that the occupants need to know that they are trespassing. If the owner hasn't told them they are trespassing, they can argue that they don't know. The trick is to provide enough evidence to the Police that the owner cannot be found and so cannot be informed that squatters are in.

The ongoing problem is that Police Authorities are so stretched that they might not be able to prioritise a piece of work that lacks evidence from the 'victim', i.e. the owner.

Boarding up? You've your LGMPA s29, but if the Police take on a Closure Order, they may secure the property. We prefer to do it ourselves as we can create a debt and raise a charge. I've never seen the Police charge owners when they do the boarding up.

If the squatters are doing no more harm thaan occupying the property, I leave them alone and focus my attention on the missing owner. I've no beef with squatters who are simply squatting without causing any nuisance. It is the owners that have taken their eye off the empty that are the issue.

Nick P-G
Reading BC
01189373091

Interesting and useful info from Nick. Picking up on the point about s29, I'm interested to hear more about any experience of successfully using s29 as a tool to create a debt for subsequent enforced sale as I understood from previous forum items that it isn't a particularly efficient or effective option (I believe that the debt created as a result of undertaking works in default under s29 is a contract debt, and that an LA would have to pursue through the County Court to obtain a charging order, as in the case of a Council Tax debt, which can be timing consuming and there are other issues such as equity to take account of too), and that other options are normally recommended/prefered. Whilst we have a good working relationship with our Public Protection colleagues (who are principally responsibly for exercising s29 powers, although we in Empty Homes are theoretically authorised too), they are hesitant to utilize (except in serious cases) due to cost recovery concerns. So I'd be interested to learn about positive experiences, particularly if regular use in resolving cases and bringing empty properties back into use. Thanks.

Thank you all for your response. I will look into all of these possible suggestions. I let you if I get an outcome.

Have a good week.

 

 

Hi there,

i frequently deal with properties like this. It is now an offence to squot in residential properties therefore you can ask the police to attend the property with you in order for them to be removed (asked to leave) once they are gone you can secure the property by doing Works In Default and securing under LGPA 1986 section 29.

If you feel there is an imminent risk you can secure and serve notice after - otherwise serve notice (under last known address from Land Reg) and then attend 24 hours later with the police to ensure the persons are out prior to securing.

 

once you have secured and paid invoice - re-charge to owner, secure debt with Local Land Charges and then you can Enforce the Sale of the property!

In addition if the land is full of rubbish i would serve a PDPA for further WID and re-charge (all adds to the Enforced Sale Debt!)

hope this helps.

Following on from earlier comments, it would be useful if we could clarify the procedure for recovery of expenses associated with s29 notice works. Comments by Andrew Lavender buried in the trail of a 2013 post http://www.ehnetwork.org.uk/forum-topic/power-entry-section-2910-local-govt-misc-act-1982-it-used indicate some complexity and limited effectiveness/usefulness of the procedure/tool; whereas some comments above suggest relative simplicity and apparently successful application, including as a good basis for enforced sale. Is there any definitive guidance?

The advice given in the previous post in relation to debt recovery under this act remain correct in my view.

Section 29 LG (MP) Act 1982: Protection of buildings.

(1) The section applies where it appears to a local authority—

(a) that any building in their area is unoccupied; or

(b) that the occupier of a building in their area is temporarily absent from it.

(2) Where this section applies and it appears to the local authority that the building—

(a) is not effectively secured against unauthorised entry; or

(b) is likely to become a danger to public health,

the local authority may undertake works in connection with the building for the purpose of preventing unauthorised entry to it, or, as the case may be, for the purpose of preventing it becoming a danger to public health.

………………………………………………

Debt Recovery

The Debt Recovery is set out in Section 29 (11) and (12)

(11) Where the local authority undertake any works under subsection (2) above, they may recover the expenses reasonably incurred in so doing from any person to whom notice was given under subsection (6) above or subsection (2) of section 30 below or to whom notice would have been required to be given but for subsection (8) of this section or subsection (4) of that section.

(12) Section 293 of the Public Health Act 1936 shall have effect in relation to the recovery of expenses under this section as it has effect in relation to the recovery of a sum which a council are entitled to recover under that Act and with respect to the recovery of which provision is not made by any other section of that Act.

(13) In proceedings to recover expenses under this section the court may inquire whether the expenses ought to be borne wholly or in part by some person other than the defendant in the proceedings, and the court may make such order concerning the expenses of their apportionment as appears to the court to be just.

Public Health Act 1936 S293 Recovery of expenses

  1. Any sum which a council are entitled to recover under this Act, and with respect to the recovery of which provision is not made by any other section of this Act, may be recovered . . .  as a simple contract debt in any court of competent jurisdiction.

The Act states that it is a simple contract debt and does not state it is a charge that is binding on successive owners.

For comparison purposes, if we look at S.215 notices and have regard to S. 219 (5) Town and Country Planning Act 1990, supplmented by the Town and Country Planning General (Amendement) Regs 1997, which states that the charge is binding on successive owners. Consequently, by virtue of Section 1 Local LAnd Charges Act 1975, this would be classed as a local land charge.

For completeness Section 1 Local Land Charges Act 1975 sets out what a local land charge is

1 Local land charges

(1) A charge or other matter affecting land is a local land charge if it falls within any of the following descriptions and is not one of the matters set out in section 2 below:—

(a)any charge acquired either before or after the commencement of this Act by a local authority [F1or National Park authority], water authority [F2sewerage undertaker] or new town development corporation under the M1Public Health Acts 1936 M2 and 1937, . . . F3,the M3Public Health Act 1961 or [F4the Highways Act M41980 (or any Act repealed by that Act)][F5or the Building Act M51984],or any similar charge acquired by a local authority [F1or National Park authority] under any other Act, whether passed before or after this Act, being a charge that is binding on successive owners of the land affected;

Therefore, the only option is to recover the monies through the County Court / High Court depending on level of debt.

Hope that helps

Regards

Andrew Lavender

www.htl.co.uk

Further to the boarding up issue; Why aren't practitioners using Housing Act 04, entry by intruders?  As you have evidence the likelihood is extremely high.  Carry out as emergency remedial action?  There is no owner to appeal it after all, and the cost recovery powers are more secure.

Sarah Williams

Public Protection Officer, Ceredigion County Council

Hi Sarah

It is certainly an option in appropriate cases.

Dealing with the insecure property (Entry by Intruder- Hazard) via an Improvement Notice would require a minimum 28 days before you could require them to start the works. Most LAs would consider this unacceptable to the leave the property insecure for this length of time

To use  Emergency Remedial Action - section 40 HA 2004

(1)If—

(a)the local housing authority are satisfied that a category 1 hazard exists on any residential premises, and

(b)they are further satisfied that the hazard involves an imminent risk of serious harm to the health or safety of any of the occupiers of those or any other residential premises, ......

So an insecure property (door / window) would result in a category 1 hazard under this hazard title and so would satisfy the first limb.

The issue is the second limb -  imminent risk of serious harm to the health or safety of any of the occupiers of those or any other residential premises.

As the property would be vacant there are no occupiers and therefore you would have to rely on an imminent risk to any other residential premises.

This may be difficult to prove but you may be able to advance the risk of arson, but it is a risk.

In addition, I would suggest that you would have to carry out remedial works to the doors and windows rather than just board them up. If you just boarded them up then there would still be an issue potentially with accessing the property and creating other hazards.

So just need to be mindful of the above when considering the use of ERA.

Regards

Andrew Lavender

www.htlc.co.uk