How many times has your council been left out of pocket after doing works on private land to achieve compliance with a statutory notice that an owner or occupier has ignored?
As most of you will know, s 225 of the Local Government Act 1989 (LG Act) provides for councils to:
- undertake works to bring land into compliance with an Act, regulation or local law where a notice requiring those works has been ignored; and
- recover the costs of those works from the person who was directed, but failed, to carry them out.
Councils cannot recover those costs in the same manner as they recover rates and charges – that is, the debt cannot be registered as a charge on the land. The costs can only be recovered as a debt in a court of competent jurisdiction.
But what do you do when the person who owes you the money has moved on?
Did you know that s 227 of the LG Act effectively provides for the debt to run with the land? In essence, where a council is owed money by a former owner or occupier of land for works the council has conducted on that land, it can require payment of the debt from the subsequent owner or occupier.
This gives councils an additional option when looking to recover debts that relate to land.
Has your council pursued a subsequent owner or occupier for a debt incurred in carrying out works required under a notice? How do you feel about pursuing a debt from a subsequent owner or occupier who had no part in the original non-compliance?