Dangerous Structures - FAQ's

Below are outlined the most commonly asked questions on dangerous structures that may be of assistance.

What exactly can be termed a 'building or structure'?

What is a dangerous building or structure?

What can be the cause of a 'dangerous structure'?

Who is legally responsible for removing the danger?

How does the Building Control Officer determine if there is a danger? 

What do the terms 'hazard' and 'risk' mean?

What is 'potential danger'?

What sort of emergency work can the local authority take?

When removing a danger is there other legislation I should know about?

Ruinous and Dilapidated Buildings

Insecure Buildings

What do you do if you think a building or structure is dangerous?

 

What exactly can be termed a 'building or structure'?

'Any permanent or temporary building and any other permanent or temporary structure, or erection, of whatever kind or nature.'

What is a dangerous building or structure?

The term 'dangerous structure' covers buildings or parts of buildings. It also includes garden walls, fences or hoardings, in fact any built structure that because of its condition could endanger the public. What makes buildings or structures dangerous?

Buildings, like people, suffer from an ageing process, which can result in the structure becoming weaker. Buildings or structures can become dangerous as a result of poor maintenance, fire, storm, vehicle impact or explosion.

Dangerous buildings are the responsibility of the building owner but the Council can, under Section 77 and 78 of the Building Act 1984, take action in certain circumstances.

Section 77 is used where a building or part of a building is in such condition or used to carry such loads as to be dangerous.

The Council can apply to a Magistrates court for an Order.

If the court is satisfied that the danger exists then an Order is given and the owner must remove the danger. Or the owner can demolish the building within a stated time period.

If the person does not carry out the work in the stated time, the Council can carry out the work and get back costs from that person.

Also, the person may be given a fine for not to complying with the original order.

Section 78 is used in similar circumstances to the above, but this is when action needs to be taken right away to remove the danger.

The Council carries out work to remove the danger, but in getting back its costs from the owner it may have to show to the court that it could not reasonably have gone ahead under Section 77.

Building Control provides a 24 hour, seven days a week emergency service to deal with dangerous building problems.(Call 0151 647 7810)

What can be the cause of a 'dangerous structure'?

Neglect, vandalism, fire damage, storm damage, explosion, vehicle impact, unsafe working activities or practices.

Who is legally responsible for removing the danger?

The owner has a general duty of care in law to protect other people from any harm arising from the unsafe condition of their property. The involvement of the local authority does not remove this liability from the owner.

Generally speaking the local authority would only deal with a 'dangerous structure' if the owner; cannot be contacted, is unable or refuses to remove a danger, or is in default of a court order.

How does the Building Control Officer determine if there is a danger?

Recognising a danger can be difficult, but an experienced Building Control Officer is capable of identifying any hazards and making an assessment of the risks they represent to people’s safety.

What do the terms 'hazard' and 'risk' mean?

A hazard is the inherent ability of something to cause harm. A risk is the likely outcome of any failure and the likelihood of that failure occurring.

What is 'potential danger'?

'The probability of a collapse of all or part of an unsafe building or structure which renders them a danger to people'.

What sort of emergency work can the local authority take?

When necessary they can: barricade or fence off the danger, have the dangerous structure guarded, erect temporary shoring, remove the dangerous part, or demolish all or part of the dangerous structure.

When removing a danger is there other legislation I should know about?

Yes. In specific cases abating a ‘dangerous structure’ could bring about requirements or duties under the following Acts;

The Highways Act 1980,

The Building Act 1984,

The Health and Safety at Work etc.

Act 1974, The Party Wall etc. Act 1996,

The Town and Country Planning Act 1990,

The Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990.

A Building Control Officer will be able to advise an owner of the specific sections and relevance of each piece of legislation, and what procedures must be followed.

Ruinous and Dilapidated Buildings

These buildings are also the responsibility of the owner, but where the building can do serious harm to the amenities of the neighbourhood, the Council can take action under section 79 of the Building Act 1984.

A notice is served on the owner stating works of repair; restoration or if the owner chooses, total demolition and site clearance. There can be difficulties with this though as such buildings are usually abandoned and may have been so for a long time.

Again in this case, if it is found that work is necessary, when the owner can not be found, the cost of the work involved will be charged to the owner of the building, structure or site concerned. Costs may be registered as a land charge.

Insecure Buildings

The local authority has powers under Section 29 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982, to secure any insecure buildings in their area.

The Local Authority serve a notice on the owner or occupier of the premises, if known, telling them of the intention to carry out the work.

The Council must then wait 48 hours before starting work. In certain cases, for example where it is not reasonable to find out the owner of the property, the Council need not give notice.

The law will only allow the authority to act when a building is insecure, not where the building may become insecure.

The costs paid by the Council in carrying out this work are charged to the building owner

What do you do if you think a building or structure is dangerous?

Please report the problem directly to Building Control either in person or by calling (0151) 606 2020.  (Out of Hours telephone (0151) 647 7810.)

We are here to help and ensure the safety of the public when a dangerous structure or building is identified. Our Building Control can offer advice and guidance to property owners.

Where necessary the council can require the owner of the dangerous structure to make it safe or, in an emergency, take direct action to remove the danger under powers contained in Sections 77 and 78 of The Building Act 1984.