Dangerous places and structures

Introduction

Each local authority is responsible for dealing with dangerous places and structures in its area. Under the Local Government (Sanitary Services) Act 1964, local authorities can require an owner to make such a site safe. In emergency cases, the local authority has the power to enter the site itself and make it safe.

The Act allows local authorities to prosecute owners who do not comply with notices served; to purchase land compulsorily; and to carry out necessary work themselves and charge the owners for the cost.

Definitions

The Act defines a dangerous structure as:

  • Any building, wall or other structure of any kind, or
  • Any part of, or anything attached to, a building, wall or other structure of any kind

that, in the opinion of the local authority “is or is likely to be dangerous to any person or property”

The Act also deals with dangerous places. It defines a dangerous place as “an excavation, quarry, pit, well, reservoir, pond, stream, dam, bank, dump, shaft or land” that, in the opinion of the local authority, “is or is likely to be dangerous to any person”.

Rules

If you own property that becomes dangerous, or contains any dangerous structures, you must take steps to remedy the situation.

If a local authority considers that a structure is dangerous, it can, if necessary, direct the owner to carry out work on the structure immediately in order to make it safe. This can include demolition of the structure and clearing and fencing of the site. If you are the owner and you do not comply with such an instruction, you are guilty of an offence and will be liable to pay a fine.

If necessary, the local authority can carry out this work itself. It must notify the owner about what it intends to do.

It may also require that all use of the dangerous structure be stopped. In certain cases, it can direct the occupier of a dangerous structure to leave and remove all their property. If necessary, it can get a court order, which allows it to use whatever force it considers necessary to remove the person and their property from the dangerous structure.

It is up to the local authority to decide if it should provide other accommodation or give money to a person who has been forced to leave their dwelling in this way. This may depend on whether the person carried on any trade or business in the dangerous structure or if the local authority considers that the person will suffer real hardship because of having to leave.

Statutory notices

If you are the owner or occupier of a dangerous place or structure, you are likely to receive a statutory notice from the local authority, informing you that your property has been classed as dangerous and tell you what the local authority requires you to do (or plans to do itself) in order to make it safe.

In some circumstances, a local authority may decide to purchase a dangerous place or structure compulsorily.

You have the right to respond to any notice that the local authority sends you and to make an objection to the compulsory purchase of a site.

Compulsory purchase

A local authority can buy dangerous land in its area (including land that is no longer dangerous because the local authority has carried out work on it), either by agreement with the owner or by compulsory purchase. It must advertise the details of any proposed compulsory purchase in the local newspaper and send a notice to the owner or occupier of the land, giving information about how and where to object to the purchase.

In the case of a dangerous place, a notice must be posted either on or near the land, giving details of the local authority's intentions.

If an objection is made, the local authority cannot buy the land without the consent of An Bord Pleanála. If An Bord Pleanála approves the compulsory purchase and the local authority has dealt with any objections received, the local authority can buy the land, using a vesting order.

Compensation

If you have any right to or interest in land that has been compulsorily acquired by a local authority, you can apply to it for compensation within 12 months of the vesting. The local authority will then pay you an amount equal to the value (if any) of the land. The value of the land will be negotiated under the Acquisition of Land (Assessment of Compensation) Act 1919. If there is any money due to the local authority on the property (in the form of a derelict sites levy or a court order for payment), the local authority can subtract this from the compensation. If the amount owed on the property is more that the compensation that has been agreed, no compensation will be paid.

Offences

Under the Local Government (Sanitary Services) Act 1964, it is an offence to:

  • Obstruct a local authority that is carrying out its duty under the Act.
  • Obstruct anyone attempting to comply with the Act.
  • Fail to carry out the measures required by the local authority to prevent a structure or place from being classed as dangerous within an allotted time.
  • Fail to comply with an order of the District Court under the Act

On summary conviction for these offences: a fine not exceeding €2,500.

It is also an offence to:

  • Fail to give information or knowingly give wrong information to the local authority about the ownership of a dangerous structure.
  • Obstruct an authorised officer of the local authority while he or she is exercising a power conferred by the Act

On summary conviction for these offences: a fine not exceeding €2,500.

Rates

Fines

Fines are payable to the local authority for non-compliance with statutory notices about dangerous structures – see ‘Offences’ above.

Cost of work

The local authority can recover the cost of necessary work on dangerous places and structures from the owners.

Derelict sites levy

The derelict sites levy is also payable to the local authority if the site is entered into the Derelict Sites Register. This levy amounts to 3% of the market value of the land concerned. The Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government may prescribe a higher percentage, which cannot be more than 10% of the market value.

How to apply

If you have any queries or complaints about dangerous places or structures, contact your local authority. Most local authorities have 24-hour numbers for reporting dangerous places or structures – check your local authority’s website.

Page edited: 22 July 2015