Alleged Council Enforcement Officer threatening over the phone?

by Readers Question

10:56 AM, 26th January 2021
About a month ago

Alleged Council Enforcement Officer threatening over the phone?

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Alleged Council Enforcement Officer threatening over the phone?

We are refurbishing a property which is 4 storey house Grade II Listed. Each Floor has Studio Room which comprises of Self Contained Unit. Floor Area is as follows: Basement, Ground Floor, First Floor and Top Floor. The refurbishment commenced almost a month ago and due to finish in about 2 weeks.

Background: It is fully licensed HMO which was already up and running at the time of purchase our Solicitors advice was not to buy as there is NO Listed building consent however our lender insisted indemnity Insurance which we purchased for £230 and as a result, they proceeded with lending. I also contacted the Council in question prior to purchase if the previous owner had fallen foul of Listed building consent to convert the property into an HMO. Their response was in writing that as long as there are No external modifications NO planning nor Listed building consent was needed. I still got that email. Having purchased the property we reapplied for Licence as New owners, Council themselves asked us to do subtle modifications without making any reference to any Listed building consent.

A couple of days ago an Alleged Enforcement Officer walked at the site and threatened all workers to leave the site otherwise they would be committing a “Criminal Offence” half of workers immediately left the site. He then tried to ask the remaining guys to sign some document which they refused to sign. Then he spoke to my Electrician to call me and put me on the phone. His opening gambit was “Are you aware that, you are committing a Criminal Offence as this is a listed building, and he was shouting and screaming, and he told me to instruct all remaining workers off the site” I responded that, all work will continue as normal, and we have not replaced anything monumental, and it was a simple refurb.

He took exception to what I said and started shouting again and said: “Are you stupid or what, you are not allowed to even put a nail through without consent in Grade II Listed buildings.” I responded that all modifications were done by the previous owner we’re simply doing a refurb. He responded that all work must stop with immediate effect, and he will be getting senior officers to formally caution me and took my email address and stated that I will hear back within a week and site meeting will take place.”

I find the following issues:

1) He was not complying with any Covid-19 restrictions. No mask no distancing, and he was using Electrician’s Phone.

2) He did not give any prior warning before his arrival. He had No ID nor did he reveal his name.

3) I checked on English Heritage Site, and it confirms that only outside of the Building is Covered by Grade II Listing such as Front Elevation, Windows Etc.

I suspect this could be a prank? Jealous neighbours?

Can Enforcement Officers behave the way he did, can they ask workers to leave the site? Without any warning? Can they attend site without any written Notice? Can they threaten on the phone?

Simon

Comments

Bond Housing

11:33 AM, 26th January 2021
About a month ago

Why are you licensing this - is additional or selective licensing in place ? This is (as described) a S257 HMO and outside mandatory HMO licensing. As for the listed building matters - id wait for contact from the officer involved- but appears most irregular.

Darren Peters

11:44 AM, 26th January 2021
About a month ago

Subscribed and watching with interest.

I think it hinges on getting this person's identification.

Either they are official in which case you go down one channel or they are a prankster/neighbour/busybody in which case they have cost you money by delaying your project in front of lots of witnesses.

MargaretM

11:55 AM, 26th January 2021
About a month ago

I would make a formal written complaint to the Local Planning Council Dept covering all the points you have made. Any Inspector would come from there as it is their responsibility to monitor building works in the council area.
They will tell you if it was an authorised visit by one of their staff or not.

Chris mccauley

12:52 PM, 26th January 2021
About a month ago

I had an issue when redecorating a ground floor studio flat a few years ago. Basically an interior decorating job. A very threatening council officer who must have been alerted by a neighbour? demanded I apply for retrospective planning for change of use to studio/ bedsit ,it cost about £1000 with the help of a consultant I just couldn’t believe how aggressive this planning officer was.

RL

14:42 PM, 26th January 2021
About a month ago

Sounds like a busybody neighbour just trying it on in a (stoopid) attempt to stop it being an HMO? Maybe there were issues with tenants before and they just see the problem carrying on as a refurb is in progress..
Sounds very odd though - bang off an email to the Council Planning Dept. They should be able to immediately tell you if there was an official visit or not and if it wasn't an official one, be very interested to know more if a fraudster is doing the rounds....

Harlequin Garden

15:23 PM, 26th January 2021
About a month ago

As far as I know any works to a listed building needs consent having owned a couple of listed buildings (planning and conservations departments are two different 'departments' and not joined up) but what concerns me is the indemnity insurance - my information is that you do not alert the people who may take action - the council - that this is happening as it will render the indemnity insurance void. They should have shown ID, any interaction I've had with a council office has always had them show their id first and they are not always pleasant.

I agree it is not an HMO if it is all separate units - if it was an HMO previously there must have been changes made since the license was issued to have self contained units. I assume you have the floor plan for the HMO?

Bond Housing

15:24 PM, 26th January 2021
About a month ago

Listed Buildings ( and the officer responsible for that) has nothing to do with Planning. On the facts if this was an officer from the council they were identified as from conservation or historic - not planning or licensing. Assuming the lender made the right checks, planning permission presumably exists. its still unclear why as described this needs a HMO Licence unless its as additional licensing area.

MargaretM

15:37 PM, 26th January 2021
About a month ago

I own a Grade II Listed cottage in Rutland and when we wanted to renew rotted windows we had to apply to the Planning Dept for permission and they sent the Conservation Officer round to check with us what was being done. Turned out when the cottage was renovated with council granted prior to us purchasing the windows weren't correct anyway!
So maybe only in Rutland that Planning and Conservation are in the same dept.

Mike W

17:18 PM, 26th January 2021
About a month ago

The story does not add up.
So your solicitor said not to buy because he could not find any listed building permission on the property. My understanding is that grade 2 covers both outside and certain internal features. You contacted the council and asked if the previous owners had done prohibited work? They replied (presumably without a site visit) saying that as long as there were no external works it would be fine. (But you don't say who in the council replied.) Did you check with historic england? You took the council's response to mean that the previous owner's work and your planned work would be ok. (Brave)
Where I live the planning department and conservation department are separate but in the case of applications, they are very much coordinated.
So, based upon what you have said I think there is a high risk that you or the previous owner may have undertaken work that may not have been allowed.
That said the person who undertook a site visit was very unprofessional if he did not identify himself and say exactly what would happen. Furthermore, if he did not immediately apply for a court injunction to stop work then that also seems suspicious. And of course, those who walked off without checking that the person was a council official were naive.

I find it strange that the lender, who usually is represented by your solicitor (who would have recommended not to lend) were actually prepared to lend as long as insurance was in place.

The story does not add up.

Simon Hall

21:24 PM, 26th January 2021
About a month ago

Reply to the comment left by Bond Housing at 26/01/2021 - 11:33
It is designed for 5 tenants. The Council requires HMO Licence for 5 or more people, regardless of the fact whether they are self contained or not. They are not Block of flats it is a house which is converted into 4 Self Contained Studio Rooms. One Of Studio is larger than others so it can house a couple hence 5 people in 4 studio rooms.

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