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Teignbridge reduces empty homes for the ninth year in a row - 21.11.2016

Empty homes in Teignbridge are being given a new lease of life - providing real-life outcomes for people needing a roof over their heads.

Teignbridge District Council has once again cut the number of empty homes across the district increasing the supply of good quality safe homes.

There are 364 empty homes in Teignbridge - the ninth year in a row that the number of empty homes in the district has been reduced.

Teignbridge officers make contact with the owners of all known empty properties to find out what is being done to bring them back into use. The majority of owners are taking action, but on occasions properties are simply neglected and fall into disrepair, gardens become overgrown causing a nuisance to neighbouring residents and affecting property values. This type of issue can sometimes result in enforcement action - although this is usually a last resort.

In some circumstances empty properties are not easy to identify because the property may be furnished and not flagged up through traditional reporting channels such as council tax listings. In most cases owners of empty properties do not want to leave properties empty as invariably they are a drain on their finances. Teignbridge works with owners to help them find the best way to get their property occupied. It offers a range of help, advice and financial assistance with the emphasis on intervention and positive outcomes.

If properties remain unoccupied due to a lack of funds for refurbishment works or difficulty letting, small grants and loans may be able to help make properties ready for reoccupation. There can be complex and varied reasons why properties become empty, or abandoned.

CASE STUDY

An elderly home owner suffering severe health problems was unable to return to her Dawlish home after a fall, and moved out of area. She was unable to clear furnishings and her accumulation of personal possessions.

The house was in very poor condition and had suffered damage during the storms of February 2014. The property didn't appear on the empty homes list because it was furnished.

Following complaints from neighbours, Teignbridge contacted the owner and offered assistance to help clear the property so that it could be sold. Teignbridge was given formal authority by the owner to act on her behalf assisting her to appoint contractors to carry out temporary structural support and clear the property.

When the property was cleared, an urn containing the ashes of the owner's mother was discovered and Teignbridge has been able to reunite the owner with them.

Teignbridge also liaised with agents on behalf at the owner. The house was sold, refurbished and is now occupied.

The owner said of Teignbridge: "'I couldn't have done it without you. You were very kind and understanding and if it hadn't been for you I would still be trying to empty it."

The 2016 empty homes figures come ahead of National Empty Homes Week from 28 Nov 2016 - 2 Dec. National Empty Homes Week is a national drive to highlight the waste of empty property, and to celebrate the success of numerous examples and new initiatives to bring empty homes back into use.

Teignbridge District Council's Executive Spokesperson for Planning and Housing Cllr Humphrey Clemens said:

"Bringing empty homes back into use is a cornerstone of our Council Strategy's 'Roof Over Our Head' project. This work is complicated and sensitive but one that can have real life benefits, not only improving local neighbourhoods and making housing more readily available, but as this case study proves really making a difference to a vulnerable property owner's life.

"For Teignbridge, it's about determining the most appropriate means of bringing empty property back into use and where appropriate offering assistance, but also using our powers when owners refuse to take action."

If you are the owner of an empty property and would like to discuss assistance available please contact Teignbridge District Council's Empty Homes Officer Hayley Farley on 01626 215425.