Repair of rainwater channel, & council letter

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    Repair of rainwater channel, & council letter

    Hi all,

    What a fabulous forum, I've just spent far too long browsing through lots of threads before posting this one...

    I've been renting my current house for a number of years; the last AST was issued in Nov 06 for 6 months so I'm now on the usual periodic tenancy (sorry, forget it's official title). The AST contains no clauses about repair, maintenance etc.

    I have today received a letter from the Council addressed to the Owner / Occupier, which states that a rainwater channel which runs from the bottom of the roof guttering downpipe into the pavement, needs a cover plate replacing - I can see why they say that, it's missing for about 3-4" next to the wall. The downpipe drains roof water from 3 of my neighbours' houses too (we are a terrace) so they have apparently received identical letters.

    The letter states that those who benefit from the rainwater channel are responsible for repair and maintenance - s.163 Highways Act 1980. Thus as an occupier, they state that I am as responsible for its repair etc as the owner i.e. the LL. There is also the usual paragraph about the council not being responsible for public liability insurance claims were an accident to happen.

    Two of the neighbours are owner-occupiers, the other house is usually rented but is empty whislt undergoing refurb at present. If I was to get out my tape measure, I suspect that the downpipe and rainwater channel just about measures within my neighbour's property, but as s.163 applies to all who benefit then I can't see that that would take us much further.

    I have looked up s.163. Essentially it provides for a Notice to be served on the occupier, and if the Notice is not complied with within 28 days then they may be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine. The section also states that the council may in its discretion serve the Notice on the owner instead or as well as the occupier.

    It is not clear from the letter whether it is a formal Notice or an initial warning. There is no reference to 28 days etc. It does state that prior approval for the works must be obtained from the Highways Authority.

    My difficulty is this. My LL is inefficient in the extreme (still waiting for a gas safety certificate to be issued, it expired last April ... ). If I am served with a summons I have to declare it to my employer & professional body, with all the potential ramifications it may bring. He does not know my neighbours and wouldn't have a clue how to contact them - other than asking me to do so. I don't want take responsibility for something if he contractually is responsible for, yet I don't want to fall foul of the local authority.

    There is provision in s.163 for an appeal to the magistrates' court by any person aggrieved by the notice but I'd be reluctant to go down that route unless necessary (stress etc).

    Other than forwarding the letter to my LL by recorded delivery and retaining a copy (which I intend to do tomorrow), has anyone any advice as to what my best course of action should be or experience of this problem?

    Sorry for the long post. Hope it makes sense.

    Many thanks

    #2
    This is definitely your landlord's responsibilty to sort out, and I am sure that the council will perceive that too. I would phone them up, explain the situation, and provide them with your landlord's contact details - hopefully they will simply address future correspondence direct to him.

    The gas certificate is a different ball game though - your LL is being criminally (I believe) negligent in not having the check done.

    Comment


      #3
      Thanks for your quick reply, ericthelobster

      I shall try the council tomorrow, hope they are sympathetic - the wording of their letter indicates that they consider occupiers as liable as owners, irrespective of how the responsibility between the two is divided by a lease - but you never know.

      As for the GSC, tell me about it! He annually lapses on this, he has another property on the same street and it has been known for him to send the corgi chap to the wrong property He knows the law but doesn't really do paperwork or stuff like that. Hmph.

      I'll remind him (again... ) when I send him the council letter too.

      Comment


        #4
        I have spoken to a chap at the council, who indicated that as the statute refers to an 'occupier', the fact I'm a tenant is irrelevant for the purposes of enforcement and/or eventual prosecution.

        He did suggest that I send the letter to my LL, which I was going to do, but I foresee difficulties in ensuring he liaises with two owner-occupiers and a LL of an empty property...

        At least this letter isn't a formal notice, it's only the first stage in enforcement process, of which the 3rd stage is the formal Notice.

        Many thanks for your advice so far. I shall see how this pans out (and try not to worry too much about it in the meantime )

        Comment


          #5
          Originally posted by Yorkie1 View Post
          I have spoken to a chap at the council, who indicated that as the statute refers to an 'occupier', the fact I'm a tenant is irrelevant for the purposes of enforcement and/or eventual prosecution.

          He did suggest that I send the letter to my LL, which I was going to do, but I foresee difficulties in ensuring he liaises with two owner-occupiers and a LL of an empty property...

          At least this letter isn't a formal notice, it's only the first stage in enforcement process, of which the 3rd stage is the formal Notice.

          Many thanks for your advice so far. I shall see how this pans out (and try not to worry too much about it in the meantime )
          Do an LZ search on section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985. L is made inescapably responsible for a short-let property's structure, gutters, downpipes, and drainage. The Council ought to know that already!
          JEFFREY SHAW, solicitor [and Topic Expert], Nether Edge Law*
          1. Public advice is believed accurate, but I accept no legal responsibility except to direct-paying private clients.
          2. Telephone advice: see http://www.landlordzone.co.uk/forums/showthread.php?t=34638.
          3. For paid advice about conveyancing/leaseholds/L&T, contact me* and become a private client.
          4. *- Contact info: click on my name (blue-highlight link).

          Comment


            #6
            COuncil are going after the easy option as usual.
            GOVERNMENT HEALTH WARNING: I am a woman and am therefore prone to episodes of PMT... if you don't like what I have to say you can jolly well put it in your pipe and SMOKE IT!!

            Oh and on a serious note... I am NOT a Legal person and therefore anything I post could be complete and utter drivel... but its what I have learned in the University called Life!

            Comment


              #7
              Originally posted by jeffrey View Post
              Do an LZ search on section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985. L is made inescapably responsible for a short-let property's structure, gutters, downpipes, and drainage. The Council ought to know that already!
              I agree, but does that matter? Don't council's have powers beyond reason if they want to act that way?
              IE if tenant does not reply or appeal, T will be liable, because the council has forced T to make it his business.
              All posts in good faith, but do not rely on them

              * * * * * ** * * * * * * * * * * * *

              You can search the forums here:

              Comment


                #8
                Originally posted by Bel View Post
                I agree, but does that matter? Don't council's have powers beyond reason if they want to act that way?
                IE if tenant does not reply or appeal, T will be liable, because the council has forced T to make it his business.
                No. If T were (misguidedly) prosecuted, T argues that L's statutory duty ought to exculpate T entirely. Councils are not above the law.
                JEFFREY SHAW, solicitor [and Topic Expert], Nether Edge Law*
                1. Public advice is believed accurate, but I accept no legal responsibility except to direct-paying private clients.
                2. Telephone advice: see http://www.landlordzone.co.uk/forums/showthread.php?t=34638.
                3. For paid advice about conveyancing/leaseholds/L&T, contact me* and become a private client.
                4. *- Contact info: click on my name (blue-highlight link).

                Comment


                  #9
                  Originally posted by jeffrey View Post
                  Councils are not above the law.
                  They THINK they are though!!!
                  GOVERNMENT HEALTH WARNING: I am a woman and am therefore prone to episodes of PMT... if you don't like what I have to say you can jolly well put it in your pipe and SMOKE IT!!

                  Oh and on a serious note... I am NOT a Legal person and therefore anything I post could be complete and utter drivel... but its what I have learned in the University called Life!

                  Comment


                    #10
                    If you are not adverse to a bit of local publicity, then approach your local paper, or if you naturally prefer your privacy, suggest that you may consider doing it to the council. They hate adverse publicity and will likely see the light and harrass your LL instead. Approach their complaints dept...

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Many thanks for all your comments, I shall remind the LL of his responsibilities under s.11 LTA...

                      If it comes to it, I shall also wave the same stick at the council - can't really go down the press route as it would potentially put my job at risk - but as s.163 HA 1980 states the occupier is liable rather than the owner, and occupier is not defined in the Act, I suspect they may not accept that s.11 LTA over-rides s.163 and will continue to argue that as I have the benefit then I am liable.

                      Your help is much appreciated.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Originally posted by jeffrey View Post
                        Do an LZ search on section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985. L is made inescapably responsible for a short-let property's structure, gutters, downpipes, and drainage. The Council ought to know that already!
                        This drainage channel is one of those victorian type slitted thingies crossing the pavement? Surely they are the responsibility of the council? Won't the have been installed by the council to avoid the even older tehnique of discharging across the pavement What if a hole appears in the road gutter from the passing of storm water, is that the responsibility of the freeholder too? Stop tap covers?
                        ... I wish those who dig holes in the road in my town would be made responsible for a period of time, say 5 years; so that they would do a better job than pressing the tarmac in with their thumbs

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Since only 3" or 4" is missing - is it possible to cover with some wire mesh or something else? Or do they intend for you or the freeholder to replace the whole lot?
                          ASSUME NOTHING - QUESTION EVERYTHING!

                          Comment


                            #14
                            Originally posted by Markonee1 View Post
                            This drainage channel is one of those victorian type slitted thingies crossing the pavement?
                            Well-described, yes it is.

                            Surely they are the responsibility of the council?
                            Not according to my council - the letter states "The rainwater channel is not an integral part of the highway. It is there solely for the benefit of the properties whose roof water it drains. Those who benefit from its use are responsible for its repair and maintenance. This is clearly stated in s.163 Highways Act 1980."

                            Originally posted by Paragon View Post
                            Since only 3" or 4" is missing - is it possible to cover with some wire mesh or something else? Or do they intend for you or the freeholder to replace the whole lot?
                            The letter implies that replacing the cover section would be sufficient, but if you get the council to do the work then I think they do replace the whole lot. Whatever is done, the Highway Authority has to approve the work first and a recognised contractor must be used with suitable PL Insurance.

                            I'll see what happens over the next week with the LL and neighbours ...

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Originally posted by Yorkie1 View Post
                              The letter implies that replacing the cover section would be sufficient, but if you get the council to do the work then I think they do replace the whole lot. Whatever is done, the Highway Authority has to approve the work first and a recognised contractor must be used with suitable PL Insurance.
                              The world's gone mad. Why the blue blazes does anyone need public liability insurance to replace a 3" x 4" bit of plastic or metal grille? And why, if the council do it, would they feel the need to replace the whole bloody lot? Have they nothing better to spend your council tax on? Good grief.

                              This has depressed me so much that I am obliged to have a very stiff drink of whisky, which I don't normally do on a Sunday night.

                              I might have more faith in Highways Departments of local councils if North Yorkshire Highways Authority had not taken it upon themselves, without consulting us, to dig up the pavement immediately outside our house (which opens onto the pavement), and install a drainage chamnnel approx 7" wide and 3" deep running the full length of the house (frontage about 20'). this meant that to exit the house, we had to open the front door and take a big 'Monty Python Silly Walk' leap over the channel, which on rainy days flowed freely with ...well, dirty liquid, and in hot weather (we imagined) would smell vile as it would silt up.

                              It took three weeks of phone calls, several grumpy letters, a Vist From On High, and a threat to fiull it in ourselves, before they came and filled it in again. Apparently the whole palaver (digging it out, then fuilling it in again) cost upwards of several thousand pounds. I am a teacher and I could have spent that on text books.
                              'Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation fo the first link on one memorable day'. Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

                              Comment

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