Life in the Lakes – June/July 2019
Thanks to everyone who contacted me to let me know your council had increased the council tax Premium. It’ll be very interesting to hear after the first six months to a year what effect (if any) the doubling of the Premium has made to your work.
Personally speaking I like the idea that some other councils are already using, which is aimed at those genuinely struggling financially to complete repairs, by offering an option for a ‘holiday’ from the Premium while repairs are completed.
Of course I’m well aware that Empty Homes Officers (EHOs) would have to work with the owner to draw up a timetable of scheduled repairs, agree a deadline date for them to be completed and then monitor progress carefully. But it seems a fair way to help owners bring their empty homes back into use sooner rather than later. It would be the carrot and stick approach again - or in this case - the stick and then the carrot.
I have been keeping up to date with our ‘neighbours’ at the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership (SEHP) and always read their Knowledge Hub email updates (thanks to Gavin Leask and Shaheena Din). Because the SEHP started up long after the English empty homes organisations and the Housing Act 1985/2004, they have been able to review our current practices and legislation to inform their own. Did you know that in Scotland there may be Compulsory SALE Orders (CSOs)? Potentially quicker and more effective than the long CPO process. I’ll be watching that with great interest.
Personally when I started as an EHO I was shocked at how little specific Housing Act legislation there was aimed at long-term empty homes. I was also amazed at how time-consuming and resource-heavy it was, and with risks of it not even being successful at the end (for example with some Enforced Sales). It also all relied heavily on legal support, something which smaller councils can struggle with. I have been looking for something over the past ten years which is quick, cost-effective, great potential for success and can be carried out by the EHO with very little (or even no) legal support. Could the Scottish CSO fulfil my wishes? I’ll be watching with great interest.
In fact I may add this blogpost to the Scottish EHP website and find out what the Scottish EHOs think of this proposed new enforcement. I’ll feedback in my next blog. Sharing best practice is what Empty Homes Officers are great at.
Best wishes from the Lakes,
Lynne Leach, Empty Homes Officer, South Lakeland District Council