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Empty buy to let with wild garden reaps £7,000 bill for owner

A buy to let investor has been fined £4,800 and ordered to pay £2,200 in costs for failing to keep his property’s garden under control. 

Leighton Dowding, who is now living in Brighton, was prosecuted by South Gloucestershire council for failing to comply with a remedial order under the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014.

The prosecution related to a mid-terraced house owned by Dowding that has remained empty for over six years. 

Since at least 2012 it has been left wholly unmaintained, with its large front and rear gardens becoming extensively and continuously overgrown and untidy. “The condition had been causing detriment to the local community” says a statement from the council.

A Community Protection Notice was originally served on Dowding in August 2017 requiring him to clear all the overgrown vegetation, tidy the land and remove accumulated waste, by September 30 2017. 

None of the work, aimed to improve the external appearance, was ever started and the condition continued to deteriorate.

Dowding pleaded guilty of failing to comply with the notice at Brighton Magistrates Court in May 2018 and was fined £1,000 and ordered to pay £1,600 in costs. 

A remedial order was then issued by the Court which reiterated the content of the original order and gave a deadline for compliance of July 29 2018.

The owner still failed to comply with the order and the only work that was undertaken was the removal of waste. The gardens remained overgrown.

When the case was heard at Bristol Magistrates’ Court this month, magistrates asserted during the hearing that Dowding had ignored what the court had ordered him to do.

Dowding was found guilty of failing to comply with the order and was ordered to pay a total of £7,000 comprising of £4800 in fines and a victim surcharge plus £2,200 in costs awarded to the council.

A South Gloucestershire council spokesman says: “Before following this course of action, we had previously written to and contacted the owner several times about their property and repeatedly offered advice and assistance, without any continuing response. Where necessary, we will use enforcement powers to bring empty properties back into use which require an owner to maintain the property in reasonable condition if it is adversely affecting the locality. Allowing empty properties to continue to have a detrimental effect on the local neighbourhood will not be tolerated.”

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