When people go missing, it can leave their family and possessions in limbo.
Properties may lie empty for years because the registered owner cannot be traced, or be repossessed due to missed mortgage payments.
This can cause excessive delays, burdensome processes and unnecessary costs.
Thankfully, empty property practitioners and families can now utilise relative new powers to manage the financial affairs of missing people, thanks to the legacy left by Peter Lawrence, father of Claudia Lawrence from York, who used his own harrowing experience to change the law. He sadly died last week.
The Guardianship (Missing Persons) Act 2017 also referred to as ‘Claudia’s Law’, allows a guardian to be appointed to act in the best interests of a missing person, by managing their property and financial affairs.
A guardian can be appointed once the person has been missing for more than 90 days, but only by the High Court, which is responsible for reviewing each application and issuing the order, if it is deemed appropriate.
One of the first people to use the act was the father of missing Hull man, Sam Conlin. He was last seen on the Humber Bridge in December 2018 and is believed to have jumped into the river, although his body has never been found.
His dad, Ian, feared the bank would repossess Sam’s house, which had sat empty since his disappearance, so applied to the court, using Claudia’s Law, to take over his financial affairs.
Part of our work for empty homes practitioners is to trace missing or unknown property owners and their beneficiaries. In the vast majority of deceased estate cases, we can help identify next of kin within 48 hours.
We have made successful applications under The Guardianship (Missing Person’s Act) to enable empty properties to be brought back to a habitable state and new owners or occupiers found.
To mark empty homes week, we are offering free training to public sector bodies. For more information about tracing missing property owners, don’t hesitate to contact me on (0114) 218 4000 or email email@example.com