Enforced sales could be an important tactic to help local authorities in their efforts to tackle empty homes. According to a leading property lawyer from national law firm Bevan Brittan, enforced sales could help to free up thousands of empty homes for families in housing need.
The issue of empty homes is in the spotlight during Empty Homes Week (15-21 February). The latest statistics from Shelter show 280,000 people in England are homeless, while the number of empty homes stands at more than 648,000, of which 225,845 have been empty for longer than six months.
“There is growing frustration among local authorities that while the number of homeless people remains stubbornly high, there are still thousands of homes lying unoccupied. Enforced sales are currently under-used as a way of tackling this problem,” says Lyndon Campbell, commercial property partner at Bevan Brittan.
“Empty homes can have a hugely detrimental impact on communities, denying vulnerable families a home and if left vacant can fall into a state of disrepair, attracting vandalism, vermin infestation and causing damage to adjacent properties.”
Enforced sales can bring both social and financial benefits, says Lyndon Campbell: “This route means that a derelict property will be brought back into use as a much needed home, as well as allowing public money used for the repairs to be recovered.”
The local authority can also take advantage of the New Homes Bonus Scheme, which enables a local authority to claim the new homes bonus for bringing and empty property back into use.
Bevan Brittan has helped Hinckley & Bosworth Borough Council in Leicestershire tackle the problem of empty and dilapidated homes using enforced sales.
Steven Connor, Environmental Health Officer, from Hinckley & Bosworth Council, said: “The property Bevan Brittan have recently worked with us to sell had been a blight to the surrounding area for some time and had no realistic prospect of changing under the previous owner. Added to that, the council were owed not an insignificant amount of money for works it had previously carried out and had little hope of ever recovering those costs without positive action being taken.”
Bevan Brittan’s empty homes service, sees experienced property lawyers helping local authorities with the enforced sales process, providing expert advice and the necessary legal and contractual documentation to expedite the sale.