Couple in Limbo Trapped Next to Abandoned House is Living Nightmare are Desperate for Action


Couple in Limbo Trapped Next to Abandoned House is Living Nightmare are Desperate for Action

A couple living beside an abandoned house in Watford which has fallen into disrepair are locked in a frustrating battle to get something done. It all started seven years ago, the wife reported the derelict property to Watford Council numerous times, but progress feels non-existent.

Their frustrations lie not just in the house’s unsightly state but other potential dangers. With broken windows and dilapidated structures, falling further into disrepair with each passing season. The property is an easy target for trespassers and vandalism.

The patio doors are broken and unsecured.

The couple’s biggest fear is gangs frequenting the nearby Hardwoods Recreation Ground might turn the abandoned house into a drug den, leading to increased noise, criminal activity, and a further decline in their quality of life.

“Concerned that the empty house could become more of a nuisance,” Mrs Fernandes confided, echoing concerns raised by their legal advisor.

The lack of a dividing fence between their property is broken and non-existent which adds another layer of anxiety. Since the responsibility for maintaining a boundary fence falls on the owner of the neglected house, the couple fears their own home could become a target.

“We have repeatediy highlighted with owner the need to repairback fencing, to avoid undesirables, squatters or criminals having access to both our properties.”

However, our pleas have been ignored. Another neighbour says the owner moved out a few years ago.

Being busy doctor at Watford General, the last thing she wants after a long shift is to return home and find her fears have become reality. The 12-year-old daughter is scared to go in the garden after individuals had to attempted to access the property from the rear broken fence.

Their initial online report to the council regarding the property’s disrepair yielded a delayed response. While acknowledging the council’s responsibility for handling abandoned buildings, the couple was directed to report any break-in concerns to the police. This feels like a dismissive response, leaving them with a sense of helplessness.

Council’s Legal Responsibility

Local Councils have a legal obligation to address issues related to abandoned buildings under the following

  • Housing Act 2004 Health and Safety Rating System
  • Sections 77 and 78 of the Building Act to make the property safe
  • Section 78 of the Building Act 1964 allows an authority to fence off the property.

These acts empower them to take various actions, including:

  • Serving an improvement notice on the owner, outlining repairs required to bring the property up to a habitable standard.
  • In extreme cases, applying to the magistrates’ court for a compulsory purchase order (CPO) to acquire the property.
  • Working collaboratively with the owner to find a solution.

The Path Forward

Mr and Mrs Fernandes situation highlights the challenges residents face when dealing with neglected properties. Here are some steps they, and others in similar situations, can consider:

  • Maintain a record: Keep copies of all communication with the council, including emails, phone logs, and reference numbers for submitted reports.
  • Gather evidence: Document the property’s condition with photos and videos, focusing on the broken windows, structural damage, and any signs of potential hazards.
  • Seek legal advice: A solicitor specializing in property law can provide guidance on their rights and potential legal avenues.
  • Engage with local media: Raising awareness of the issue through local news outlets can put pressure on the council to act.

By taking these steps, the couple, and others facing similar frustrations, can advocate for their safety and the well-being of their neighbourhood.


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