Empty homes crackdown with doubling of council tax on empty properties and enforced sale

Above: Scott from the Council’s Empty Homes team with Councillor Chris Penberthy outside Beauchamp Road.

  • Council Tax for owners who leave homes empty for more than two years rises to 200 per cent on 1 April
  • Plymouth City Council applies to court to enforce the sale of Peverell property that has been left to rot by owners
  • But infamous Widey Lane site that the Council compulsorily purchased three years ago has been transformed dramatically with two new bungalows

Plymouth City Council is getting tough on long term empty home owners as Council Tax for them doubles, and the Council signs an order to enforce the sale of an eyesore property.

Empty Homes Council Tax Premium

All long term empty home owners in the city that the Council has on its database have been written to recently advising them that from 1 April 2019 the empty homes council tax premium will increase to 200 per cent of the normal rate, if the property has been empty for two years or more. There could also be powers to impose further increases of up to 400 per cent by 2021 for the worst offenders.

Enforcement action

The Council has also signed an executive decision to move forward the enforced sale of a derelict property at Beauchamp Road, which is in poor condition, has a severely overgrown garden and has been left to become derelict by the owner, who has not paid any Council Tax for several years.

The crackdown comes as the Council reveals how the once abandoned and dilapidated bungalow that for years stood on the corner of Widey Lane and Bowden Park Road, on which the Council executed a compulsory purchase order three years ago, has now been replaced by two stunning bungalows.

The house at Beauchamp Road is in such a poor state of repair:

  • it’s causing damage to the adjoining properties
  • render has previously fallen from the front elevation into the front garden below
  • pigeons are now nesting within the loft space, causing serious internal damage and potential health risks
  • the garden is severely overgrown and is causing damage to neighbouring garden walls.
  • Tackling long term empty homes also forms a key part of the Council’s Plan For Homes, the latest phase of which was launched earlier this month.

Councillor Chris Penberthy, Cabinet Member for Housing and Cooperative Development for Plymouth City Council, said: “I am delighted to be able to announce these measures as part of our ongoing crusade against long term empty homes, which are literally a blot on the landscape. They can become derelict eyesores over time, be subject to vermin, vandalism and anti-social behaviour, and they can also reduce the value of neighbouring properties by up to 20 per cent.

“Tackling empty homes also forms a key part of our Plan For Homes. So I absolutely welcome the fact that people who leave properties empty for more than two years will have to pay double the amount of Council Tax. This will hit those who leave properties empty long term where it hurts – in the wallet – and make them seriously think about the need to sort long term empty homes out.

“Plymouth City Council has been working hard with local partners and property owners to tackle this issue, and where possible we prefer to work with owners to support them in bringing their empty properties back into use. Enforcement actions such as compulsory purchase orders and forced sales are always a last resort for us, but we are prepared to take that tough action if necessary.

“In the case of the Beauchamp Road property, our Housing Delivery team have made repeated attempts to work with the owner since 2016 but they have since disengaged. So unfortunately we have no option but to enforce the sale of the property to ensure the Council’s debt is recovered and the property returned to use.

“But as the amazing transformation at Widey Lane has shown, enforcement action can have fantastic results, and on that once overgrown and derelict site stands two fantastic new bungalows.”

Above: the property at Widey Lane before the Council did a compulsory purchase order in 2016. Below: the new bungalows on the same site.

Timeline of transformation of Widey Lane site

Plymouth City Council had received complaints about the site at Widey Lane over a period of several years, and the Housing Delivery team tried in vain to persuade the owner to either renovate or sell it. In the end the Council had to get a Compulsory Purchase Order approved by the Secretary of State and then sold the property at auction in July 2016.

Once the new owners demolished the bungalow and cleared the site it was evident that it was large enough to build two bungalows. Their planning application was approved in May 2017 and the building works commenced just over a year ago.

More information

You can find out more about the Council’s work to tackle empty homes and support available at www.plymouth.gov.uk/emptyhomes or you can like the Empty Homes Plymouth Facebook page.

Find out more about Plan For Homes here: http://plymouthnewsroom.co.uk/plan-for-homes-3/