Council chiefs aim to bring empty homes back into use

Owners of long-term empty properties are to be asked what they’re going to do to bring it back into use to help address affordable housing shortages.

Newark and Sherwood District Council will be sending the questionnaire to the registered owners of around 2,000 empty domestic properties in the district to establish what plans, if any, the owner has for bringing the property back into use.

The aim is to build a database of information and, where appropriate, to encourage the owners to make every effort to bring the home back into use. Only where the property is causing a nuisance will the council consider taking further action.

Using a formula devised by the Homes and Communities Agency, empty homes will be prioritised. Those which score highly will receive more attention from the council in being brought back into use. Points are scored for such things as accumulated litter, whether it’s boarded up, the number of empty homes on the same street and how long it’s been empty. If it is up for sale so is more likely to come into use soon, it will score low points.

This will be the used as a base line for considering whether the council would take any long-term action under The Housing Act 2004.

However, the council will still continue to take short term action under other legislation if appropriate for an accumulation of refuse, where boarding up is needed to prevent unauthorised entry or where the property poses a danger to public health. Where appropriate, owners’ details could be passed consensually to housing providers interested in purchasing empty property and/or managing it on the owner’s behalf. However, no information will be passed onto any other agency as a result of completing the questionnaire.

The council’s cabinet member for clean and green, Coun Nora Armstrong, said: “They say an Englishman’s home is his castle. Unfortunately, that’s still the case even when the home has been left standing empty for a considerable time.

“However, the council has discretionary powers which mean it can, and will, take action against the owners of these empty homes that let them fall into disrepair and become a neighbourhood eyesore.

“Our preference is to engage with owners to find acceptable solutions. However, we may also resort to enforcement action where it has not been proved possible to achieve re-occupation of empty properties through voluntary means.

“The council can use powers such as compulsory purchase and enforced sale, or taking over the running of a property to enforce re-occupation through Empty Dwelling Management Orders. This where the council can take over the management of long-term privately owned empty homes.”