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Delapidated house with no probate

including wills and probate
alwaysafloat
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Delapidated house with no probate

#329687

Postby alwaysafloat » July 30th, 2020, 1:10 pm

Hi All,

I wonder if anyone can offer advice.
A friend of mine owns a semidetached property in the south of England and 4-5 years ago her elderly neighbour died leaving the house empty. The elderly woman had a son who apparently grew up in the house but now only visits when pushed to sort out problems (he did at least board up the hole in the back door to stop the rats getting in). The house has fallen into serious disrepair. The wooden windows are all rotting. There are vines are growing over the windows. The garden is a jungle! and recently there has been an infestation of rats. Not the sort of property anyone would want to live next to.
The son has said that he might come back one day to live in the house. Apparently he revealed to my friend that he has not applied for probate. When other neighbours have complained to the council to intervene given the unsightliness of the property. The response has been that they cannot take action against the son as technically the property belongs to the estate of the deceased woman and as there has been no application for probate they cannot do anything. My friend is also concerned as there are a number of trees are gaining in height which are located very close to the rear of the property.

So the question is - Is there anything that can be done to force the beneficiaries of the estate to take appropriate action to clean up the property?
If so where does one start?

AA.

pochisoldi
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Re: Delapidated house with no probate

#329856

Postby pochisoldi » July 30th, 2020, 11:40 pm

alwaysafloat wrote:Hi All,

I wonder if anyone can offer advice.
A friend of mine owns a semidetached property in the south of England and 4-5 years ago her elderly neighbour died leaving the house empty. The elderly woman had a son who apparently grew up in the house but now only visits when pushed to sort out problems (he did at least board up the hole in the back door to stop the rats getting in). The house has fallen into serious disrepair. The wooden windows are all rotting. There are vines are growing over the windows. The garden is a jungle! and recently there has been an infestation of rats. Not the sort of property anyone would want to live next to.
The son has said that he might come back one day to live in the house. Apparently he revealed to my friend that he has not applied for probate. When other neighbours have complained to the council to intervene given the unsightliness of the property. The response has been that they cannot take action against the son as technically the property belongs to the estate of the deceased woman and as there has been no application for probate they cannot do anything. My friend is also concerned as there are a number of trees are gaining in height which are located very close to the rear of the property.

So the question is - Is there anything that can be done to force the beneficiaries of the estate to take appropriate action to clean up the property?
If so where does one start?

AA.


Two approaches - both involving the local council:
1) Environmental health (easy to find out)

2) "Empty dwelling management" - speak to the housing department to find out who handles this and they may be able to kick the executor/personal representative into doing something.

alwaysafloat
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Re: Delapidated house with no probate

#330022

Postby alwaysafloat » July 31st, 2020, 5:27 pm

Thank you Pochisolidi. Very helpful.

AA

Clitheroekid
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Re: Delapidated house with no probate

#330202

Postby Clitheroekid » August 1st, 2020, 3:54 pm

alwaysafloat wrote:The response has been that they cannot take action against the son as technically the property belongs to the estate of the deceased woman and as there has been no application for probate they cannot do anything.

This is utter nonsense.

They may not be able to make an Empty Dwelling Management Order in respect of the house, as one of the exemptions is that less than 6 months have elapsed since the grant of probate (though I suppose it could be argued that if there's no grant anyway the exemption can't apply).

However, there are several alternatives they could use. Firstly, they have the power under section 17 Housing Act 1985 to make a compulsory purchase order. Secondly they could make a CPO using section 226 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, and thirdly they could use the enforced sale procedure. These involve creating a debt in respect of the house, e.g. under the Building Act 1984 or the Environmental Protection Act 1990, and then enforcing the debt by a forced sale.

These are just the most obvious routes - there are several others that could be used.

So far as serving the relevant notices is concerned there is no problem at all, thanks to Section 18 of the Law of Property (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1994.

This states:

8 Notices affecting land: service on personal representatives before filing of grant.

(1) A notice affecting land which would have been authorised or required to be served on a person but for his death shall be sufficiently served before a grant of representation has been filed if—

(a) it is addressed to “The Personal Representatives of” the deceased (naming him) and left at or sent by post to his last known place of residence or business in the United Kingdom, and

(b) a copy of it, similarly addressed, is served on the Public Trustee.


So all the Council need to do is to follow this procedure, and the problem is solved.

Feel free to convey this information to your neighbour, who can, in turn, pass it on to their Council.

Of course, in practice it's unlikely that the Council would have to actually buy the property. A coherent threat to do so would probably be enough to kick the son into obtaining probate and either selling the house or living there himself. And if he failed to put it into proper condition the Council could still use these powers against him.

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Re: Delapidated house with no probate

#330224

Postby mc2fool » August 1st, 2020, 5:08 pm

alwaysafloat wrote:A friend of mine owns a semidetached property in the south of England and 4-5 years ago her elderly neighbour died leaving the house empty.

An additional thought to those already presented; is the empty house the other half of your friend's semidetached? If so then there are almost certainly clauses in the leases to stop one semi falling into a state where it is affecting the other. Check it out and if any enforcement is specified, beyond/before going to court that is....

dealtn
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Re: Delapidated house with no probate

#330231

Postby dealtn » August 1st, 2020, 5:26 pm

mc2fool wrote:
alwaysafloat wrote:A friend of mine owns a semidetached property in the south of England and 4-5 years ago her elderly neighbour died leaving the house empty.

An additional thought to those already presented; is the empty house the other half of your friend's semidetached? If so then there are almost certainly clauses in the leases to stop one semi falling into a state where it is affecting the other. Check it out and if any enforcement is specified, beyond/before going to court that is....


That's assuming its owned leasehold though surely? Worth checking, but a lease might not exist. The deeds if owned freehold might give note of any covenants or restrictions that might apply to the situation.

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Re: Delapidated house with no probate

#330234

Postby mc2fool » August 1st, 2020, 5:37 pm

dealtn wrote:
mc2fool wrote:
alwaysafloat wrote:A friend of mine owns a semidetached property in the south of England and 4-5 years ago her elderly neighbour died leaving the house empty.

An additional thought to those already presented; is the empty house the other half of your friend's semidetached? If so then there are almost certainly clauses in the leases to stop one semi falling into a state where it is affecting the other. Check it out and if any enforcement is specified, beyond/before going to court that is....

That's assuming its owned leasehold though surely? Worth checking, but a lease might not exist. The deeds if owned freehold might give note of any covenants or restrictions that might apply to the situation.

Yes, I should have said leases or covenants.

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Re: Delapidated house with no probate

#330422

Postby alwaysafloat » August 2nd, 2020, 8:14 pm

Thank you CK (and others). Plenty to get on with. Hopefully the council will act to sort out the problem. I know my friend is worried, should the son move back in, that he will make her life difficult for alerting the authorities but of course he may just decide to sell up and move on. Apparently the council admitted they weren't able to collect council tax given the lack of probate so hopefully they are doing something to rectify the problem.

Thanks again.

AA

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Re: Delapidated house with no probate

#330433

Postby Mike4 » August 2nd, 2020, 10:45 pm

alwaysafloat wrote:Apparently the council admitted they weren't able to collect council tax given the lack of probate

Really? That doesn't sound very likely.

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Re: Delapidated house with no probate

#330435

Postby Lootman » August 2nd, 2020, 10:58 pm

Mike4 wrote:
alwaysafloat wrote:Apparently the council admitted they weren't able to collect council tax given the lack of probate

Really? That doesn't sound very likely.

Who would they send the bill to?

No point in sending it to the deceased. They would not necessarily know who the executor was, even assuming that there is one. It is too early to bill the beneficiary.

My guess is that it is treated the same way as any other debt of the deceased, i.e. it is resolved via probate. Funeral expenses are often the same - funeral directors are usually pretty good about doing the funeral first and then waiting for probate to resolve itself before getting paid.

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Re: Delapidated house with no probate

#330686

Postby staffordian » August 3rd, 2020, 9:30 pm

Mike4 wrote:
alwaysafloat wrote:Apparently the council admitted they weren't able to collect council tax given the lack of probate

Really? That doesn't sound very likely.

IIRC, an empty property, following a death, is exempt from council tax until probate is obtained and for six months after probate, so this would be why the council are unable to collect it, not because of not knowing who to bill.

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Re: Dilapidated house with no probate

#330695

Postby PinkDalek » August 3rd, 2020, 10:09 pm

staffordian wrote:
Mike4 wrote:
alwaysafloat wrote:Apparently the council admitted they weren't able to collect council tax given the lack of probate

Really? That doesn't sound very likely.

IIRC, an empty property, following a death, is exempt from council tax until probate is obtained and for six months after probate, so this would be why the council are unable to collect it, not because of not knowing who to bill.


I hadn’t heard about 6 months after probate before but looking below it would depend as always. Yet in this case the OP states the neighbour died some 4-5 years ago.

https://www.gov.uk/council-tax/second-homes-and-empty-properties

When you do not pay Council Tax

If you’re selling a property on behalf of an owner who’s died, you won’t need to pay Council Tax until after you get probate as long as the property remains empty. After probate is granted, you may be able to get a Council Tax exemption for another 6 months if the property is both:

unoccupied

still owned and in the name of the person who died


More interestingly, perhaps, if the property is classed as empty then, depending on the Council, might this potentially be applicable?:

You can be charged up to double your Council Tax if your home has been empty for 2 years or more (unless it’s an annexe or you’re in the armed forces).

I don’t know from what we’ve seen so far if the property is empty and/or substantially unfurnished etc. I can’t recall the precise ins and outs but our Council said that as someone (a carer) had continued to live there post decease (in view of our loyalty to her and for property security) for more than a brief moment in time, then we got no discount whatsoever.

From our experience the Council were more than aggressive & wouldn’t have let such a situation persist for over 4 years.

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Re: Delapidated house with no probate

#331181

Postby alwaysafloat » August 5th, 2020, 5:02 pm

Thank you for the additional comments which I have passed on to my friend. However, She said she has had numerous conversations with the various council departments (Empty dwelling management etc) but they are still insistent that they cannot do anything as the property is still with the deceased's estate and until probate is applied for they cannot enforce against the son. It is odd that a state of limbo now exists and that there seems to be no time limit for probate to be completed.

If anyone knows a way round this I would be very pleased to hear.

TIA

AA

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Re: Delapidated house with no probate

#331184

Postby Mike4 » August 5th, 2020, 5:12 pm

alwaysafloat wrote:Thank you for the additional comments which I have passed on to my friend. However, She said she has had numerous conversations with the various council departments (Empty dwelling management etc) but they are still insistent that they cannot do anything as the property is still with the deceased's estate and until probate is applied for they cannot enforce against the son. It is odd that a state of limbo now exists and that there seems to be no time limit for probate to be completed.

If anyone knows a way round this I would be very pleased to hear.

TIA

AA


Given the council's obligations outlined in the thread, a chat with your MP would seem a good way to escalate things.

Edit to add: Or local councillor.


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