Building Control guidance - dangerous structures

Northampton Borough Council's obligations for dangerous structures

A dangerous structure or part of a building, which is unable to sustain or carry any imposed loads, may me dangerous, and may be required to be removed. Our aim is to respond to any reports of possible dangerous structures and investigate them within 2 hours. Our duty is to safeguard the public, and we will deal directly with the owner's agents or the structure to make safe the area. Close liaison with police, fire service and other agencies can help resolve difficult or extraordinary situations.

The prime responsibility for the condition of a building or structure lies with its owner. However, the council has an obligation under the Building Act 1984 to deal with dangerous structures in its area and if the owner cannot be found or contacted, it is authorised to do work to make the building or structure safe and recharge the owner its reasonable costs for doing so.

Dangerous structures vary from collapsing boundary walls, falling masonry and tiles, vehicle impact into buildings, fire damage, wind and weather damage neglect and poor maintenance.

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:

  1. Imminent: structures which are at risk of collapse and must be secured for public safety. The owner will normally be recharged for emergency works carried out in these cases
  2. 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.

What will the Building Control surveyor do?

The Building Control surveyor will visit the site to inspect the structure and to arrange for appropriate action to be taken to remove any danger. If the structure is considered potentially dangerous, the owner of the property will be located and requested to arrange for the structure to be removed or repaired.

The area surrounding the structure is often cordoned off to ensure safety is maintained whilst the structure is being dealt with.

If the structure is considered immediately dangerous and likely to collapse, the Building Control Surveyor will arrange for a builder to remove or repair the structure as soon as possible, normally on the same day. The builder's costs are recoverable from the owner of the property.

Where or responsibilities overlap with other Emergency Services a close liaison is maintained to ensure safety at all times. If it is necessary to deal with any immediate danger we can arrange for our own emergency contractor to carry out the work.

Should a major civil emergency occur, the 'Northampton Borough Council Emergency Plan' would involve our staff in respect of dangerous buildings etc.

Regrettably some structures become dangerous when buildings are being renovated or altered. This type of danger usually occurs when the building is of great age and does not respond well to insensitive alterations.

Common causes of failure

Our surveyors have found that the most common causes of collapse are:

  • Removal of lateral restraint to walls
  • Failure of over-stressed piers
  • Inadequate support to chimney breasts
  • Filling flues with concrete
  • Using existing brick walls as permanent shuttering to new concrete work
  • Sheeted scaffolds acting as sails in strong winds and pulling down the wall to which the scaffolding is attached
  • Undermining of foundations, usually by underpinning which is badly designed and/or poorly sequenced
  • Overloading of floors by builders' materials
  • Roof 'spreading' or collapsing due to the new coverings being too heavy for the structure to sustain

If you have any doubts as to whether the building you are dealing with is dangerous please contact us immediately.

If your call is during normal working house please contact 01604 838920.

Unless called upon by the emergency services the council does not operate an out of hours service.