Suppose a let property has an issue and the local Council believe the problem is severe enough to be regarded as a Category 1 or 2 hazard. In that case, they can serve an Improvement Notice. This Notice is to demand that you carry out the work necessary.
Improvement notices are served under sections 11 and 12 of the Housing Act 2004. The improvement notice requires the person on whom it is served to carry out the work to rectify the hazards within a specific time.
Copy of the improvement Notice must be served on the person legally required to rectify the hazards. The improvement notice can be served on the occupier of the let property and on anyone who has a relevant interest in the let property.
An improvement notice is required to include information:
- To stipulate if the Notice is served under s11 or s12 of the Act.
- The nature of the hazard.
- The deficiency giving rise to the hazard.
- Address of the let property where Hazards exist.
- The date when the work to rectify the hazards is to commence – This cannot be within 28 days of service of the improvement Notice.
- The time for the work to be completed.
- Improvement notice must state landlord or the recipients right to appeal
- The Notice is required to contain a period for making an appeal.
- The Council must also serve a copy of the improvement Notice on any other freeholder, lessee, or occupiers.
What is an improvement notice?
An improvement notice is a notice that requires the landlord to deal with a Category 1 and or 2 hazards. The Improvement Notice should stipulate:
- What the hazard is?
- What is causing the hazard?
- What work the landlords to do?
- When work is to commence?
- Information about appealing the improvement notice and the period to do so.
If the landlord does not do the work, or if the work starts but reasonable progress is not achieved. The local authority may step in and carry out the work, and bill the landlord for the work.
The Council can fine and or prosecute the landlord for failing to comply with the terms of an improvement notice.
How to appeal an improvement Notice?
The court of Appeal has given guidance on how to Appeal an improvement notice. In Wood v Kingston Upon Hull City Council  EWCA Civ 364, the Court of Appeal considered who should be served the Notice and what should be contained in the improvement notice.
Mr Wood was the freehold owner of a first floor flat in Hull. Hull Council believed there to be insufficient fire resistance between the ground floor flat and Mr Woods flat.
The Council served an improvement notice under the Housing Act 2004 s.12 on the owner of the 1st floor and the ground floor owner too.
The Notice compelled them to carry out remedial work, the Notice stipulated two alternative schemes. The first involved work solely to the ceiling of the ground floor flat; the second involved work affecting both flats.
In the Upper Tribunal Deputy President Rodger QC had held ( UKUT 165 (LC)) that the Council was able to advance alternative schemes in an improvement notice and that it was ‘irrational’ in this situation to include the two flat scheme.
The improvement notice against Mr Wood was quashed as he could not possibly do the work as demanded by the council to the ground floor flat.
This Appeal dealt with the issue of:
- Who should be served with improvement notices?
- What should be contained in them?
Tribunal dealt with the issue of what a council should do when a hazard exists in one property (‘the affected property’). What also needs to be considered is the cause of the hazard is it another property or at the boundary of the two properties?
When can a local authority just serve an improvement to the causing property only?
The Deputy President held that:
- An improvement notice can only be served on the causing property if this is the ‘only way’ of protecting the health and safety of the occupiers and abating the hazard – but this should only be done if it is impossible to fix from within the affected property.
- That an Improvement Notice can set out several options for remedial action.
- That where any remedial action involved more than one owner co-operating it should be discouraged.
- That it was ‘irrational’ to give two options in this case.
- That, therefore, only one Notice should be served on the other flat owner with one remedial action (the ceiling option).
Source: British Landlords Association
Author: Amanda Goldsmith firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: 26th of October 2020