A Bill introduced into Parliament on 24 May 2012 proposes to amend the EP&A Act to provide greater power to local councils to deal with derelict buildings.
Existing Provisions and Proposed Amendments
Currently, item 2 in the table to section 121B of the EP&A Act provides that a local council can issue an order to require the removal or demolition of a building in the following circumstances:
- the building is or is likely to become a danger to the public; or
- the building is so dilapidated as to be prejudicial to its occupants or to persons or property in the neighbourhood; or
- the building is erected without prior development consent, development consent and construction certificate or approval under the Local Government Act 1993 as required, as applicable.
If passed by Parliament and made into law, the Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment (Demolition Orders) Bill 2012 will also enable a council to issue a demolition order in the following circumstances:
- the building is unoccupied and unsightly and detracts significantly from the amenity of the neighbourhood.
The Bill also proposes to amend the EP&A Act regarding the timeframe for representations in relation to, and compliance with, demolition orders.
The EP&A Act currently provides that the timeframe a council can nominate within which representations in relation to an order can be made, and for compliance with the order must be “reasonable”. The Bill proposes for the EP&A Act to provide that:
- a period of 10 days will be considered to be a “reasonable time” for a person to make representations as to why an order requiring the demolition or removal of a building should not be made.
- an order requiring demolition or removal of a building can specify a period of not less than 10 working days within which the order must be complied with.
While the proposed amendment may be welcomed by local councils struggling to deal with absent or recalcitrant landlords of neglected properties, concern has been raised by the Legislative Review Committee that providing a local council with the power to subjectively determine what is unsightly and detracting significantly from the amenity of the neighbourhood, and which can result in the destruction of private property, may constitute an ill and widely-defined power. Other criticisms of the Bill are that there is no requirement that the building has to have been unoccupied for any particular period of time before such an order could be issued and that an order can be made against a lawfully erected and structurally sound building even if its amenity impacts were considered at the time of the grant of consent.
Note: This information is not to be relied upon as legal advice.