Dangerous buildings and structures
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
- Purchase land compulsorily
- Carry out necessary work and charge the owners for the cost
What is a dangerous structure?
If a local authority believes a structure “is or is likely to be dangerous to any person or property” it can be identified as a dangerous structure. This includes any:
- Building, wall or other structure of any kind
- Part of, or anything attached to, a building, wall or other structure of any kind
What is a dangerous place?
If the local authority believes a place “is or is likely to be dangerous to any person” it can be identified as a dangerous place. This includes any:
If you own a property that becomes dangerous, or contains any dangerous structures, you must take steps to make it safe.
If a local authority considers that a structure is dangerous, it can:
- Direct the owner to carry out work immediately in order to make the structure safe. (Such as demolition, clearing and fencing). It is an offence not to comply and you will be liable to pay a fine.
- Carry out work itself (however it must notify the owner in advance).
- Stop all use of the dangerous structure – it can direct the occupier to leave and to remove all of their property. A court order can be sought if necessary.
The local authority may decide to provide alternative accommodation or funds to a person who has been forced to leave their dwelling (due to it becoming dangerous). This may depend on whether the person carried out any trade or business in the dangerous structure, or if the local authority considers that the person will suffer real hardship due to leaving.
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. This will inform you that your property has been identified 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 make a compulsory purchase of a dangerous place or structure.
You have the right to respond to any notice that the local authority sends to you, and you can make an objection to the compulsory purchase of a site.
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 you can 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, the local authority can then buy the land, using a vesting order.
If you have any right to or interest in land that has been bought by compulsory purchase by a local authority, you can apply 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. No compensation will be paid if the amount owed on the property is more that the compensation that has been agreed.
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
- 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
These offences can carry a fine of up to €2,500.
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 if you want to make a complaint about a dangerous place or structure, you should contact your local authority. Most local authorities have 24-hour phone numbers for reporting dangerous places or structures – check your local authority’s website.