Dangerous Buildings and Structures
Hertfordshire Building Control (HBC) is responsible for dealing with dangerous buildings and structures within the local authorities it serves. Dangerous structures vary from collapsing boundary walls, falling masonry and tiles, vehicle impact into buildings, fire damage, to wind and weather damage, neglect and poor maintenance. In emergency cases, HBC has the power to enter the site itself and make it safe, as our duty is to safeguard the public. Usually, we will deal directly with the owner or their agents. We respond to any reports of possible dangerous structures and investigate them, with liaising closely with the police, the fire service and other agencies to help resolve difficult or extraordinary situations.
What is a dangerous structure?
The term ‘dangerous structure’ covers not only buildings or parts of buildings ie loose slates or tiles but also such things as garden walls, fences or hoardings. In fact, any structure, which could by its condition endanger persons.
For the purposes of Building Regulations, there are two types of dangerous structures:
- Imminent: structures which are at risk of collapse and must be stabilised, demolished or secured for reasons of public safety. The owner will normally be recharged for emergency works carried out in these cases
- Hazardous: structures which from a survey are unstable but not imminently dangerous. In these cases, the owner is given a reasonable time to remove the danger. Failure to respond may result in a Magistrates Court Order being obtained.
The prime responsibility for the condition of a building or structure lies with its owner; however, we have an obligation under the Building Act 1984 to deal with dangerous structures in the area and if the owner cannot be found or contacted, we are authorised to do work to make the building or structure safe and recharge the owner its reasonable costs for doing so.
Common causes of dangerous structures
- old age
- design defects
- vehicle impact
- wind and weather damage
- fire damage or explosions
- poor maintenance or neglect
Our Deputy Head of Building Control Richard Murrell was recently called out to look at this wobbly wall in Borehamwood. This 2-metre high wall situated alongside a footpath could easily have collapsed and caused injury. A large crack was apparent with movement throughout the wall. The wall was too large and unstable for Richard Murrell to risk pushing over himself. Our emergency works contractor Alan Bunyan had to dismantle the wall piece by piece. As a result, this took about 45 minutes, but meant that the danger was completely removed, which given its position alongside a footpath was the best possible resolution.
What will the Building Control surveyor do?
First of all, our Building Control Surveyor will visit the site to inspect the dangerous building or structure. They will advise on the course of action to be taken to remove the danger and keep the public safe. If the structure is potentially dangerous, the owner of the property will be located and requested to arrange for the structure to be removed or repaired within an agreed timescale. In the case of immediate danger, building control surveyors may employ an emergency contractor to carry out the necessary works, usually on the same day, and then recover the costs from the property owner.
The area surrounding the structure is often cordoned off to ensure safety is maintained whilst the structure is being dealt with. Where our responsibilities overlap with other Emergency Services, a close liaison is maintained to ensure safety at all times.
If you need to report a dangerous structure during working hours Monday-Friday them please phone us on 01438 879990, for an out of hours emergency please get in touch with your local authority in the first instance.
Should a major civil emergency occur, the ‘Local Authority Emergency Plan’ would involve our staff in respect of dangerous buildings and structures.