When this content has been published
Published on 24 February 2023
Helping get empty houses back on the rental market – Empty Homes Week starts 27 February
With a national shortage in housing; and a housing crisis declared in districts across Devon, Teignbridge is working with owners to help bring some private sector houses back into use.
The number of empty homes in Teignbridge reported to the Government in October last year was 292, taking the number below 300 for the first time since our records began.
Empty properties are not only potentially wasted homes, but they also often blight areas, impact on neighbours and residents and attract anti-social behaviour.
When a property is identified as empty, we contact the owners to find out what is being done to bring them back into use. Often, they are already being marketed for sale or undergoing refurbishment. Sometimes owners have insufficient funds for refurbishment works or need advice or financial help to comply with property standards before letting, or they need to clear a property so that they can move back in or sell it.
In some cases, the occupant has had to move out of a property due to it being so badly ‘hoarded’ that it is no longer safe to live there. These properties are often in the worse condition and are amongst the most difficult to resolve. Because they are not classified as empty, they do not appear on our list and go under the radar unless reported by residents.
This is often the time when our private sector housing team will step in to advise, support and even get ‘hands on’ with hoarding to help owners find important items, before a professional clearance company is called in.
“With hoarded properties, we’re often supporting someone who has a number of complexities in their lives – a bereavement; a mental health problem; or simply that things have become a bit overwhelming for them to be able to tackle the issue,” said Alison Dolley, the service lead.
“My team often steps in to help people solve problems that would be considered above and beyond the role of the council, but it’s about providing that human response to people’s needs; helping people get back on track and just simply rolling our sleeves up and cleaning a kitchen out.
“If we’re helping to bring some empty properties back into the rental market, it benefits everyone; and hopefully the team also do their bit to support some of the most vulnerable members of our communities.”
Anyone who is concerned about an empty property in Teignbridge can report it to firstname.lastname@example.org
The council has also invested funds with Lendology CIC, a social enterprise lender to provide loans to owners of empty properties and landlords. They offer very flexible repayment options including deferred loan option giving owners time to refurbish and rent, sell or move into the property before monthly repayments commence.
Anyone who would like more information can call Lendology on 01823 461099 or email email@example.com.
Note to Editors
When reporting the numbers of empty properties to Government, only properties that have been cleared of furniture are counted. This means that if a property has been left furnished it is classified as a ‘furnished empty’ - the same class as second homes - and reported differently.
The government has recognised that empty homes and unoccupied second homes are an issue in areas where housing is in short supply. To help combat the problem they are in the process of introducing the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill which intends to spur owners into taking action to bring properties back into use by giving local councils the powers to increase council tax.
Currently owners of properties that have stood empty for two years pay double the council tax, but under new powers, councils can introduce the additional 100% long-term empty homes premium after one year rather than two.
New powers will also allow councils to charge owners of empty, furnished properties or second homes 200% council tax.
Where owners do not respond to attempts to communicate with them and there is no evidence that they are taking action to bring about reoccupation, or where the property has been identified as ‘high risk’ using the empty property risk assessment, the council will consider the most appropriate enforcement action to bring the property back into use.