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Landlords’ ‘social responsibility’ to fill empty homes

Property owners who leave their homes empty have a “social responsibility” to put those houses to use as quickly as possible, Bristol council’s Cabinet Member for Housing and Service has said.

Property owners who leave their homes empty have a “social responsibility” to put those houses to use as quickly as possible, Bristol council’s Cabinet Member for Housing and Service has said.

Councillor Mark Wright said it was “totally disgraceful that homes lie empty while there are so many families without a proper home” – as a new push to fill the 7,000 empty properties in Bristol was announced.

Following a conference last month, a number of agencies got together to tackle the problem of empty properties in the city.

Boarded up: Homes lie empty while thousands wait on housing lists

There are over 7,000 empty properties in Bristol at any one time and1,800 of these are classified as long-term empty – meaning they are unoccupied for more than six months.

With over 12,000 people on the housing waiting list, the council is now keen to increase the number of empty properties brought back into use each year.

The Empty Property Summit brought together Empty Homes Agency; the National Association of Empty Property Practitioners; Cardiff City Council; the National Landlords Association; Homes4Bristol and representatives from the authority’s Council Tax; Housing Solutions services and Private Housing Services as well as Cllr Wright.

Over the next few months the city council will be re-launching its approach to tackling empty properties, including plans to:

  • Improving advice and guidance to owners;
  • Better market and publicise the assistance that is available;
  • Enforcement

Cllr Wright said he was confident a carrot-and-stick approach would reduce the problem, adding that the recession had made the situation worse.

“I am confident that our combined approach of offering better advice and help to property owners, while also getting tougher with those who are unco-operative, will see a reduction in the number of empty properties over the next year,” he said.

“Our investigations have shown a new phenomenon resulting from the recession – this is that some property developers are deliberately leaving significant numbers of properties in a not-quite-finished state so as to avoid them being classed as ‘empty homes’.

“By doing this they avoid paying Council Tax after six months and also avoid ‘empty homes’ legislation. This is very unwelcome behaviour, and the council will be taking action to persuade such developers to finish these homes properly and put them to good use.”

The council is now looking to use Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMOs) which are used where all other means of bringing a property back into use have failed.

A private agent has now been appointed to manage these properties, when an EDMO is granted, with the costs of management being paid for by the rent.

When EDMO action was threatened in Bristol recently, 70% of landlords written to responded positively and agreed to sell, renovate or occupy these houses.

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