With 605 properties across the B&NES Council area currently vacant for more than 6 months, the authority is taking action to bring empty homes back into use.
The Council is raising awareness of its work as part of National Empty Homes Week 15th– 21st October.
Homes left empty for months or years can fall into disrepair and become a nuisance to neighbours and the wider community. To tackle the problem the Council has adopted a new approach, focussing on the issues preventing owners bringing these properties back into use and helping to overcome them.
Many of these empty homes have been inherited. The new owners, faced with bereavement and probate issues, often feel overwhelmed by the responsibility and cost of dealing with the property. It can be a particularly daunting task if the new owner lives miles away, the property has been empty for a long time, is full of belongings or has sentimental value.
Once the council knows about an empty property, it’s officers can support and guide the owner through the process of bringing it back into use by helping to manage and fund repairs, arranging house clearance or valuations.
The council can also award Small Works Grants of up to £500 to cover things like planning pre-application costs, electrical surveys, safety certificates and clearance costs. Empty Property Loans of up to £30,000 to bring the property back into use are also available.
This same level of support is also offered to other Empty Property Owners, such as those who have taken on a refurbishment project that has become too much of a challenge or older people who are in long term care and whose home is now empty and falling into disrepair.
Councillor Paul Myers, cabinet member for Economic and Community Regeneration, said: “The vast majority of empty properties in the district are brought back into use quickly without the need for intervention, but by offering practical support and advice early on, the council can help owners deal with the building and prevent it from becoming a long term, problem empty property. Our new approach is already proving to be a success.
“It isn’t illegal to keep a property empty. However, if such a property becomes a nuisance to the local community or council tax debts are not being repaid and the owner refuses to engage with the council, we will take appropriate enforcement measures to bring a property back into use.”
“We can only work to bring empty homes back into use if we know about them. We can and will give advice to owners of homes that are well maintained but sitting empty if we know about them. Residents can help us by letting us know if there’s an empty property in their community.”
Across the district there are currently 605 properties that have been empty for more than six months with 160 of them empty for two years or more.
Any empty property is a wasted housing resource, can become a real blight in the community and is a lost financial return to the owner. If there is an empty home in your street, you can help the council work to bring it back into use by reporting it via the No-Use-Empty website:
The council’s adopted Empty Residential Property Policy was adopted in April of this year and can be found here: http://www.bathnes.gov.uk/sites/default/files/siteimages/Housing/Empty-Homes/empty_residential_property_policy_2018.pdf
For information on National Empty Homes week please visit: http://www.emptyhomes.com/empty-homes-week.html