The Mayor and City Council (M&CC) is again calling on the owners of derelict buildings— which pose a threat to both passersby and occupants— to repair or demolish the structures in the “interest of public safety and health”.
The M&CC, in a release, noted that the City Engineer, Colvern Venture, has been concerned with the number of derelict buildings in the city, and has submitted a list of such buildings to the City Works Committee. The buildings in question are located in Stabroek, Lodge, Wortmanville and South Ruimveldt Park.
When speaking to reporters on Monday, Venture stated that they would have so far identified about 100 derelict buildings in the city and are still conducting inspections so more buildings may be added to the list. The engineer added that they required at least 15 building inspectors to carry out the works but currently only have seven. “They have the challenge of inspecting very large areas and as such we may not be able to quickly address some of the issues that may arise because of the vast areas that we have. We have building inspectors who have at least nine areas and these are not small wards,” the engineer stated.
M&CC pointed out that these buildings pose a threat as they serve as havens for criminals who use them as hideouts and storage spaces for illicit substances. The Council said it has also observed that residents use these houses to dispose of waste, providing breeding places for rodents and vectors.
They declared that they will pursue legal action against all owners or occupiers of all derelict buildings within the City of Georgetown.
Turning to the law on the matter, the M&CC quoted the Municipal and District Councils Act Chapter 28:1, section 27, which states that any building deemed by the City Engineer to be in a ruinous state and dangerous to those residing there or to passersby or to those in neighbouring buildings, shall (if the engineer sees fit) be fenced for the protection of passersby, and a notice will be served on the owner of the building, requiring him to take down, secure, or repair such building or other thing.
The section continues that if the owner of the building does not repair, secure or take it down within three days of being served the notice, the City Engineer may take a complaint before a city magistrate, who may order the owner or the occupier of the building to “take down, rebuild, repair, or otherwise secure to the satisfaction of the City Engineer” the structure seen to be in a dangerous state by the magistrate.
Venture said that there is no specific time span given to all owners of derelict buildings to meet the aforementioned requirements.
He, however, said that they would have to work with persons— while some owners would be given seven days to demolish or start repair works on the buildings that are vacant, other owners would request extra time to demolish or start repairs. “There are some buildings that are actually in the courts you have issues of family disputes over properties and so those we can’t force a time frame on it but we will expect that the courts also will take into consideration the threat to life and limb in dealing with some of these matters,” he said.
While the building inspectors face those challenges, they also face challenges in tracking down owners of the buildings, as some would have seen a change in ownership.