At any given time, there will always be a number of empty homes due to people buying and selling houses, relocating, estates being resolved etc. In most cases, this will be a short term situation. The houses that are being targeted by the Council are those that have been left empty for an excessive period of time and have become ‘long term empty homes’, which is defined by the Government as being empty for six months or more.
Reasons for empty homes
There are a number of reasons as to why homes become empty for an extended period, such as:
- Taking an excessive period of time to sell on the open market;
- Renovations taking longer than planned;
- Irresponsible or unexperienced landlord;
- Property left in probate;
- Health issues of owner;
- Family disputes or relationship breakdown;
- Abandonment, repossession or bankruptcy; and
- Property being kept as financial investment or for sentimental reasons.
What can the council do?
There are many financial, social and environmental benefits to bringing long term empty properties back into use, for the owners, the neighbours and the wider community. It is estimated that leaving a property empty is, on average, costing the owner over £7000 per year in lost rental income, council tax and insurance, and this does not take into account depreciation or any repairs required due to vandalism. Bringing empty homes back into use can also improve the appearance of the area and increase property values, inspire further investment in the housing stock, remove the burden of responsibility from neighbouring residents, and reduce the need for monitoring by emergency services.
The Council employs an Empty Homes Officer with the aim of: raising awareness of empty homes issues, maintaining accurate records of empty homes in the District, pursuing funding opportunities to tackle empty homes, targeting problematic empty homes and using enforcement action with the aim of bringing home back into use.
If the owner of an empty house is not willing to maintain their property and it is falling into disrepair, there are enforcement powers available to the Council to require the owners to carry out works of repair. Failure to comply with such an enforcement notice can lead to prosecution, or the works being completed by the Council on the owners behalf. In the worst cases, where there is no cooperation by the owner, this may lead to the enforced sale of the empty property to see that it is brought back into use.
If you would like to report an empty property in the District, please do so by getting in touch on the contact details supplied.
Last updated: 19 June 2020