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Exterior maintenance of home - UK vs US

Exterior maintenance of home - UK vs US

Old Jun 9th 2019, 7:29 pm
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Default Exterior maintenance of home - UK vs US

Just got back from another quick UK trip. I was staying at my mum's house and went for daily long walks exploring the neighborhood, I happened to see a house in the middle of the block that had several broken-down, dilapidated vehicles on the front driveway / garden area. Also, the house was in 'very bad' shape - broken gutters, vines growing to the point where serious structural damage looked like it was happening, etc. But it was clearly occupied. This neighborhood is not part of any private 'association', etc.

Now, in the US, I know that you have private 'associations' that have very strict rules on this sort of thing, but I also know that in poorer areas (not typically controlled by associations), it seems virtually 'anything goes' - you can have a ton of non-functioning vehicles on your lawn, and your house can be falling apart.

So is there any sort of rule governing the condition / appearance of the front of your house in the UK, assuming no 'private association' is involved? Can the local council require any sort of 'clean up' if your garden is a total eyesore/disaster? Any rules about broken down / non-functional vehicles?
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Old Jun 9th 2019, 8:09 pm
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Default Re: Exterior maintenance of home - UK vs US

Not many of us in the US live in subdivisions or gated communities. We don't and I wager quite a few posters here don't either.

I would not want to live in an area where what I do with my yard, the color I paint the outside of my house, the number or type of trees I am allowed to plant are governed by a set of by-laws.

If the house is like mine and not in one of the above 'sanctioned' communities, the neighbors can speak with them about removing the vehicles and if nothing is done, then a call to the local authorities can be made as abandoned vehicles in yard are death traps for children and great hiding places for rodents, snakes and other animals. The health department can also be called.

I'm assuming the same methods can be employed in the UK for these derelict neighbors.
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Old Jun 10th 2019, 1:11 am
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Default Re: Exterior maintenance of home - UK vs US

It all depends local council. Some will not allow caravans, company vans etc parked on the driveway or road outside the house.

We lived in a house in Chester and were not allowed to keep chickens. Not that we wanted to. Another area of Chester did not allow washing to be hung outside in Sunday’s.
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Old Jun 10th 2019, 1:32 am
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Default Re: Exterior maintenance of home - UK vs US

Originally Posted by Jerseygirl View Post
It all depends local council. Some will not allow caravans, company vans etc parked on the driveway or road outside the house.

We lived in a house in Chester and were not allowed to keep chickens. Not that we wanted to. Another area of Chester did not allow washing to be hung outside in Sunday’s.
And these were local council restrictions, not related to any private development? Interesting. I spent a lot of time in my childhood in the 'lake district' (UK) and know that there, you are heavily restricted as to what you can do with your house - you must use local lakeland stone for the walls, slate on the roofs, etc. You couldn't build an extension with red-brick, for example. I believe similar restrictions exist in certain villages in the south-west (those that have thatched-roof cottages, for example). So obviously, various localities do have power to control some 'appearance' factors.


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Old Jun 10th 2019, 2:17 am
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Default Re: Exterior maintenance of home - UK vs US

Originally Posted by Steerpike View Post
And these were local council restrictions, not related to any private development? Interesting. I spent a lot of time in my childhood in the 'lake district' (UK) and know that there, you are heavily restricted as to what you can do with your house - you must use local lakeland stone for the walls, slate on the roofs, etc. You couldn't build an extension with red-brick, for example. I believe similar restrictions exist in certain villages in the south-west (those that have thatched-roof cottages, for example). So obviously, various localities do have power to control some 'appearance' factors.
I am pretty sure they were local restrictions.
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Old Jun 10th 2019, 3:09 am
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Default Re: Exterior maintenance of home - UK vs US

Historical buildings (called 'listed, grade I, II, III or IV) in the UK are required to be maintained according to their listed grade, general rule of thumb is that the less money the owner has the higher the likelihood the overseeing body will force you to keep to those standards.

Protected areas, usually historical significance, may well have local exterior upkeep requirements, using approved maintenance materials/ building methods.

And then you have the Steptoe's of the world. Council's can enforce cleanup of scabby properties, funnily enough some correlation between distance of a local councillor's property to the eyesore and enthusiasm with which aforementioned council pursues the matter can often be found...
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Old Jun 10th 2019, 11:33 am
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Default Re: Exterior maintenance of home - UK vs US

Where I live here in GA the county has ordinances controlling this. Most control is in a designated historic area where there is control of external appearance and developments. More generally in the city there are ordinances such as not using family housing for multi-occupation, not parking on unpaved areas, trash cans not being visible and rights for the county to deal with overgrown/dilapidated properties such as the OP mentions. There are less restrictions in rural areas.
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Old Jun 10th 2019, 11:34 pm
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Default Re: Exterior maintenance of home - UK vs US

My parents (UK) bought the first house on their street and had restrictions on keeping the house looking nice etc whilst the others sold. Not sure if it was a legality or a "best interest" sort of thing.
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Old Jun 11th 2019, 12:22 pm
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Default Re: Exterior maintenance of home - UK vs US

As a generalisation, in most of England and Wales, there would be nothing to prevent you letting your privately owned house go to rack and ruin, and this is the norm. The people who bought my grandma's house did exactly that and it's heartbreaking to see the state of it now, as she was so houseproud. If the house is abandoned entirely or becomes a health or safety issue for neighbours, local authorities have the ability to force through actions such as clean up (billed to the owner) or even a compulsory purchase of the house, with the aim of returning it to a liveable condition, but this is entirely at the discretion and resource of the local authority so varies from area to area.

You do have exceptions - Conservation Areas are localities where there is a blanket restriction on making changes to the appearance of your house without obtaining prior permission. Eg changing your windows from traditional wooden sashes to uPVC double glazing, or having visible satellite dishes. The idea is Conservation Areas are historical and/or unique or attractive areas and there is an attempt to retain that character.

Also, there are some localities where there are more restrictions - eg New Ash Green in Kent, which was designed and built by a private developer with an idea for creating "idyllic" modern villages and most of the housing is bound by covenants akin to those found in restrictive Housing Associations in the US (such as what colour to paint your front door, the appearance of your garden, when you can hang out laundry to dry etc). I lived nearby New Ash Green some years ago and considered buying a house there as it was pleasant, but even I (as a very conventional and compliant citizen) felt automatically rebellious against such restrictions.
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Old Jun 12th 2019, 1:00 am
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Default Re: Exterior maintenance of home - UK vs US

A bit more digging uncovered this: There is a 'Town And Country Planning Act' (1990), and it has 'section 215'.

Government doc giving use cases:
https://assets.publishing.service.go...491/319798.pdf
"Section 215 (s215) of the Town & Country Planning Act 1990 (the Act) provides a local planning authority (LPA) with the power, in certain circumstances, to take steps requiring land to be cleaned up when its condition adversely affects the amenity of the area. If it appears that the amenity of part of their area is being adversely affected by the condition of neighbouring land and buildings, they may serve a notice on the owner requiring that the situation be remedied."
"s215 action can be taken against land and buildings – in s336 of the Act the definition of ‘land’ includes a building."
"Successful s215 action has been both complaint-driven and proactive. It is one of a number of provisions available to LPAs for maintaining and improving the quality of the environment, assisting in tackling dereliction ... "
"Section 215 is a relatively straightforward power that can deliver important, tangible and lasting improvements to amenity. For example, in one LPA 157 former eyesores were improved as a result of the direct use or threat of s215 action between April 2000 and April 2004. Section 215 has the potential to contribute to wider regeneration and urban quality objectives and is an important part of the Government’s sustainable development strategy. The Urban Task Force (1999) found that ‘there is little incentive for private property owners to invest in the quality of their property if they are situated within an urban environment which is of such low quality that it simply sucks value out of their property’."


It almost sounds like this provision is little understood and under-utilized.


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Old Jun 12th 2019, 12:29 pm
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Default Re: Exterior maintenance of home - UK vs US

Originally Posted by Steerpike View Post
It almost sounds like this provision is little understood and under-utilized.
As said previously, it will depend very much on the will and resource of the local authority. I've no doubt it is well understood, but I expect most stretched councils will only look to take action for the most egregious examples - letting a car rot in your front garden won't be one of them. Living like Mr Trebus - maybe.
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Old Jun 13th 2019, 1:30 am
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Default Re: Exterior maintenance of home - UK vs US

A relative in the US let her house go to hell for several years owing to mental health struggles. Sagging gutters, peeling paint, often overgrown yard. This was in a solid middle class neighbourhood with houses worth $250k-$500k. There was no homeowners' association; if there had been, she would have been fined to oblivion and evicted. It was never bad enough for the local government to step in. Her house has been improved since, but for those years, if her immediate neighbours had needed to sell, they would have faced tens of thousands in reduced value due to the eyesore next door.
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Old Jun 13th 2019, 5:56 pm
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Default Re: Exterior maintenance of home - UK vs US

I was thinking about your comment earlier ...
Originally Posted by Rete View Post
Not many of us in the US live in subdivisions or gated communities. We don't and I wager quite a few posters here don't either.
I suspect the prevalence of 'HOA' type communities is greater in the west and south-west, where there has been rapid population growth and associated development. It's easier for cities to sell land to a single big developer and let them worry about infrastructure elements (sewer, water, roads, etc). Also, I think cities have learned that they can save ongoing maintenance money by never 'adopting' the roads within a new development - make it a condition that the HOA keeps that responsibility in perpetuity. HOA's, for their part, have learned that if the roads are not maintained by the 'city', then they can gate them, and keep out non-residents - a 'selling point' for the development. It's almost impossible to find homes for sale in Scottsdale, AZ that aren't part of an HOA. Scottsdale's population grew by 576% from 1960 to 1970, and the population rose from 67,000 in 1970 to 200,000 in 2000.

Originally Posted by Rete View Post
I would not want to live in an area where what I do with my yard, the color I paint the outside of my house, the number or type of trees I am allowed to plant are governed by a set of by-laws.
I hear that a lot, and it's somewhat reasonable to want to control your own environment; however, how would you feel if your neighbor suddenly piled up crappy vehicles on their lawn, painted their house violent pink, or simply stopped cutting the vegetation, etc? Or invited a relative to park their RV on the lawn and effectively live there? Of course it depends in part on how well separated you are from your neighbor; if you have some separation between you and your neighbor, it matters less. But if you are just a few feet apart as we are in the Bay Area, not so good.

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