A major report published by Anglia Research reveals a considerable amount of uncertainty, inconsistency and questionable practice amongst local authorities using probate researchers (or 'tracing agents'). For empty homes practitioners seeking to use tracing agents to locate missing owners, the report highlights some of the risks involved and the need for due diligence and robust procedures to control those risks. It warrants close reading.
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Kent's No Use Empty (NUE) initiative scooped the award for ‘Outstanding approach to regeneration’ at the UK Housing Awards event at the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge Hotel in central London.
The UK Housing Awards, run by Inside Housing and the Chartered Institute of Housing, is the largest and longest running awards in the sector and is now in its third decade.
The 23rd report from the Intergenerational Commission, entitled A New Generational Contract, includes surcharges on second and empty homes as part of its 10 main policy recommendations.
Recommendation number 6 reads:
Replace council tax with a progressive property tax with surcharges on second and empty properties; halve stamp duty rates to encourage moving; and offer a time-limited capital gains tax cut to incentivise o of additional properties to sell to rst-time buyers.
Empty Homes, the national campaigning charity, has a project to spread community-based regeneration in areas with high levels of empty homes. We are following demonstration projects where community-based organisations are bringing empty homes into use in areas with high levels of empty homes. We want to share their experiences and encourage other organisations to look at how community-based regeneration could work in such neighbourhoods to tackle the underlying causes of empty homes.
In the wake of Amber Rudd's resignation as Home Secretary, Sajid Javid been appointed in her place and has in turn been succeeded by James Brokenshire. Brokenshire was previously Secretary for Northern Ireland, a role from which he stepped down four months ago in order to receive treatement for lung cancer.
The Information Commissioner has shown where her sympathies lie by slapping a massive £120,000 money penalty on the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea for accidentally revealing the names of owners of empty homes in the Borough, along with the addresses of the homes concerned.
Having led the way with Empty Homes Premium, Scotland may well be en route to develop a new device for the empty homes toolkit in the form of Compulsory Sale Orders. These would be targeted at 'vacant, derelict and empty land', but in principle this would seem to include empty dwellings.
Following written Parliamentary questions from Labour's Shadow Housing Minister, John Healey, about the housing situation of Grenfell survivors, Dominic Raab has provided a detailed breakdown in what is described as a 'holding answer':
Farmers are being given enhanced options for converting agricultural buildings to homes through an extension of Permitted Development Rights. These allow owners to effect a change of use without needing full planning permission.
The amended development right for the change of use of agricultural buildings to provide up to 5 new homes will allow for:
The charity Empty Homes is now recruiting a replacement for current director, Helen Williams, who is leaving after four years. It is understood she will be taking up a senior role at Locality.
The announcement on the Empty Homes Agency website says:
The charity Empty Homes has issued a press release calling for more to be done about empty homes as the number has risen for the first time since 2008.
The press release is reproduced below:
ACTION NEEDED AS NUMBER OF LONG-TERM EMPTY HOMES RISES FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE 2008
The campaigning charity Empty Homes calls for Government action as the number of long-term empty homes recorded in official data rose in 2017 for the first time since 2008.
Seven leading firms within the Property Guardian industry have taken a major step forwards towards self-regulation with the publication of a detailed new guide on the legal framwework that protects property guardians.
Entitled 'The law on property guardianship', the document describes itself as 'a white paper setting out the health, safety and legal status of security through occupation'. It is written by three lawyers, including Giles Peaker, who has often made robust comments about some industry practices in his nearlylegal blog and is clearly not anyone's poodle.
An exciting opportunity has arisen to work as the Empty Property Officer for Cherwell District and South Northamptonshire Councils, on a 3-year fixed term contract with a salary of up to £3,349.58 plus benefits. The closing date for applications is 28th January.
The advertisement for the post follows.
Empty Property Officer Ref. PSH017
Three-year fixed-term contract
£28,975.86 - £33,349.58
The provisional New Homes Bonus figures released towards the end of December 2017 show the number of long-term empties increasing, bringing to an end the series of year-on-year reductions that had lasted since the NHB was first introduced.
The Liberal Democrats have launched a campaign at local level to encourage councils to do more about empty homes - whilst criticizing local authorities for insufficient action to date.
Empty Home Premium would become chargeable at 200% of Full Charge! So said Fiscal Phil Hammond. If you've been busy calculating the increased revenue your Council may earn next year, hold your horses. As the change will require a change to primary legislation, the 200% charge might not be lawful until 1st April 2019. So don't count on any extra revenue in 2018.
Are you confident that you actually know how NHB was calculated for 2016/17. I must admit, I am a little lost and therefore quite ashamed.
In a speech to the first Community-Led Housing Conference, Alok Sharma MP praised the sector and announced a new programme of financial support.
£60million has already been given to local authorities with high levels of second home ownership. The minister has now offered a further £60million to help fund further development 'for the first year alone', implying an ongoing programme. This accords with the announcement for the original £60million, which was presented as a 'hypothecation' from the additional revenue being raised by the 3% SDLT surcharge on purchases of second homes.
This shows great promise as far as future reporting of the empty homes issue is concerned, given the evident attention to detail shown in the data series and the clear intention to produce more meaningful statistics by intelligently correlating the raw government data on empties with other variables such as population.
Most practitioners will by now be aware that the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, has decided to allow local authorities in England to increase the Empty Homes Premium to 100%, bringing the maximum rate in line with Wales and Scotland. Better late than never: this is a welcome move.