A reader wants to know what can be done about a house in his neighbourhood which is in a dilapidated state and poses a potential threat to those living in proximity to the building.
The house is an eye-sore and earlier repair efforts by the owner appear to have been abandoned.
Building materials, including wooden beams and metal scaffolding, are precariously stacked against the side of the house, while some beams and scaffolding appear to be propping up the house itself.
He says several full refuse bags are piled up next to the house, but he is not sure what they contain.
The reader adds that the house is seemingly used for business purposes, with customers and staff in and out of the house during the day.
He says children playing in the neighbourhood sometimes collect rugby or soccer balls from the yard of the house and he feels that a collapse of the structure could be disastrous.
See the reader’s question here.
A few of his neighbours share his concerns and he says they have approached the owner, who is seemingly unconcerned.
The National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act deals with the construction of buildings and the standards relating to construction works and buildings.
Section 12 of the act provides a useful starting point by providing the local authority with various options.
If the authority feels the building is dilapidated or in a state of disrepair, it may serve notice on the owner to demolish it.
Or it can order the owner to secure the building in such a manner that it does not present any danger to those in proximity.
If the local authority feels the condition of any building, land or earthwork is such that steps should forthwith be taken to protect life or property, it may do so without serving or delivering such notice on the owner.
In addition, it may recover the costs of such steps from the owner.
It is arguably necessary to adopt such aggressive action as it allows the local authority to take swift steps to secure the structure of the house if it is a potential danger to the lives of the occupants and visitors.
Section 12 also permits the authority to instruct the owner to remove any persons from the building and to prevent further access.
The local authority will provide written consent when it again permits access to the building.
Acting in contravention may result in the person concerned being convicted with a fine.
The reader may also wish to examine the by-laws applicable in the municipality in which he resides as there may be provisions on which he could rely that may be less stringent in respect of the state of disrepair.
Certain by-laws focus more on the health nuisance or health risk by addressing, for example, the lack of adequate ventilation of a building or waste not being disposed of regularly or properly.
Other by-laws may go so far as to simply state that no person may allow any building to fall into a dilapidated, neglected or unsightly state.
This type of by-law is very broad in its application and could be considered particularly subjective in the assessment, beauty being in the eye of the beholder.
It is, however, required that such a state be regarded as a nuisance to others where it is offensive or dangerous.
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