New powers to force sale of '˜eyesore' empty homes in South Tyneside

Tough new powers could help council bosses force owners to sell '˜eyesore' empty homes in South Tyneside

By The Newsroom
Friday, 04 January, 2019, 16:31
Coun Mark Walsh

South Tyneside Council has approved a new strategy which will be used to tackle problem private houses which have been empty for more than six months.

The Enforced Sale Policy was given the green light by the council’s ruling cabinet.

Council bosses in South Tyneside could force people to sell empty homes

It is hoped it could go some way to bringing more than 1,700 vacant proerties in South Tyneside back into use.

Coun Mark Walsh, cabinet member for housing and transport, told the meeting: “The policy will provide additional powers to tackle long term empty properties, where contacting and dealing with owners proves to be problematic.

“The policy will be used as a last resort and attempt to resolve issues and in order to use the enforced sale process a number of criteria will need to be satisfied.”

Of the empty homes in the borough, about 900 had been vacant for at least six months at the beginning of last year, potentially making them eligible for forced sale.

Council officers will have to be satisfied a checklist of eight different requirements has been met before they will be able to put the policy into action.

This includes:

*The property has been empty for at least six months

*The property is ‘in disrepair or detrimental to the local community’

Sign up to our daily newsletter

*A debt on the land or property has been owed to the council for at least three months

*The owner cannot be found or contacted

Before the meeting, Coun Walsh said: “There are a number of properties in the borough that are empty where the owners show no desire to maintain them or bring them back into use.

“They have allowed them to deteriorate to such an extent that they start to have a detrimental effect on neighbouring properties and the local community.”

“Enforced sale is a way of selling on the property or site to a new owner and stimulating new interest, investment and reoccupation.”

According to a report prepared for councillors, leaving a property empty can lead to mounting costs for the council if it is allowed to attract anti-social behaviour or fly-tipping.

Securing the building in an attempt to prevent this also hits council coffers.

However, the local authority could also face legal challenges if it does not carry out any enforced sales to the letter of the law, particularly when trying to contact owners and agreeing an acceptable sale price.

The report also notes any sale could not ‘guarantee’ improvement.

James Harrison

James Harrison , Local Democracy Reporting Service