The number of households in emergency accommodation increased by 14% in the last three months. This is an unprecedented rise and another unwelcome effect of the coronavirus pandemic.
Even with an eviction ban in place, many people have been tipped into homelessness. By the end of June 2020, 98,300 UK households were living in temporary accommodation, with many placed into emergency bed and breakfasts or hostels by local councils.
At the same time, the latest statistics show there are nearly 650,000 empty homes in the UK and almost half of them have been vacant for more than six months. That’s enough to house those living in temporary accommodation more than six times over.
As we embark on Empty Homes Week 2021, we want to add our voice to those calling for change and use our skills to help local councils take positive action to address the disparity between empty homes and homelessness.
High levels of empty properties have a serious impact on the viability of communities.
They are often found in areas where there aren’t enough jobs, meaning people don’t want to live there. The prevalence of vacant premises then increases crime and vandalism and local businesses start to close, subsequently causing the area to decline further. A snowball effect, if you will.
In some places in the UK, whole streets are left empty and there can be a feeling among property owners that there is little point spending money on homes no one wants to live in.
Restoring empty homes
There is growing frustration among public and private sector bodies that while the number of homeless people remains high – and is likely to do so for some time – hundreds of thousands of properties lie unoccupied.
But what can be done? Local authority-led regeneration is required in areas where empty buildings are most common. Investing in a neighbourhood can bring back life and encourage the community to thrive, thus reducing the number of vacant properties.
How can the law help?
One of the main barriers to regeneration is tracing the owners of empty homes, but this is not insurmountable.
We specialise in investigating the titles of residential property and identifying owners or their next of kin, if they are deceased.
In some cases, it may appear an owner is missing, but this doesn’t have to be the end of the line. We can make an application to appoint a guardian, or request a declaration of presumed death, to enable action to be taken and a home to be put back into use. If the owner lacks capacity, we can make an application to the Court of Protection, again, to enable you to take control of the empty dwelling.
Even unregistered properties, or those with little or no title documents, can be brought back to life with a little persistence. We also use our skills and experience to help practitioners arrange clearance, insurance and maintenance.
Thanks to our multidisciplinary team, we can advise on landlord and tenant disputes and any enforcement action required, such as compulsory purchase orders and empty dwelling management orders. In short, we are a one-stop shop for any issues relating to vacant properties.
To mark empty homes week, we are offering free training to public sector bodies. For more information, don’t hesitate to contact me on (0114) 218 4000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org