Council highlights proactive work to get empty homes back into use

As part of Empty Homes Week 2021, Southend-on-Sea Borough Council are highlighting the work taking place to tackle the Borough’s empty properties.

Key in open from door looking outwards

Empty Homes Week runs from Monday 15 February to Sunday 21 February and is designed to raise awareness of the issue of long-term empty homes and bringing them back into use.

Government statistics show that out of approximately 80,180 homes in Southend, 724 have been empty for six months or longer. The council’s five-year Empty Home Strategy aims to bring properties back into use and stop properties empty for longer than six months, from slipping into deterioration and long-term vacancy.

A property which has been empty for two years or more is legally considered to be a long-term empty home and there are a number of reasons, including:

  • the property is difficult to sell or let
  • there is building work going on
  • the owner is finding it difficult to manage the property
  • the property has been repossessed
  • it is part of a lengthy legal process called probate
  • the owner is being cared for elsewhere or is in hospital
  • the property is classified as a second home

Cllr Ian Gilbert, leader of the council with a responsibility for housing, said: “I find it a shame that there are any long-term empty homes in the borough when we have so many families crying out for a property.

“Aside from the families, these empty homes are often not looked after and can create problems for neighbours, attracting vandalism and crime, pests and negatively affecting house prices.

“The council’s Empty Homes Strategy goes some way to addressing these problems and I know the Empty Homes Team are working with homeowners, providing support and assistance, so they are already looking at bringing homes back into circulation as a result of hard-work.”

When the council are made aware of an empty home, officers assess the property and take necessary steps to address any hazards, anti-social behaviour or pest control issues. If the owner or next of kin doesn’t make effort to fix the issues, the council will begin legal proceedings, such as empty dwelling management orders, compulsory purchase orders or enforced sales. 

One successful case was in Leigh Hall Road, Leigh-on-Sea, where the elderly resident had lived their whole life but not done any maintenance work to the house. The resident moved into residential care in 2019 and shortly after, a neighbour complained about the dilapidated conditions and pigeons nesting in the roof.

The resident sadly died in 2019 and the property became part of a legal process called probate. The next of kin were contacted and helped clean up the property, although this did not stop the pigeons from nesting. The house was sold in June 2020 and the pigeon problem solved. The house is now being refurbished and converted into a house share.

Another home in Leitrim Avenue, Shoeburyness, was reported in 2015 when a councillor raised the property as an issue due to the conditions of the garden and presence of vermin. The owner had passed away in 2012 and the property was tied up in probate.

The council contacted the next of kin several times, but it was when the Council’s Empty Homes Officer was employed 2019 and they were persistent in their contact, that things changed and eventually the property was sold in July 2020. The new owners are undertaking a full refurbishment and the case remains open until they move in.

To find out more about Empty Homes, read the Council’s strategy document, or report an empty home, visit our Housing information pages

Find out more about Empty Homes Week.

Published: 18th February 2021

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