So, who do they belong to?

More than 11,000 homes across the country have been lying empty for longer than a decade, figures show.

The data, collected from freedom of information requests to local authorities also showed that 60,000 properties had been empty for two years or more while just one in 13 councils make use of powers that would allow them to take over properties that have been empty for at least six months.

Vince Cable, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said such properties should be used to provide homes for some of the most vulnerable in society and called for an urgent government review of the system.

Interesting isn’t it? Those empties, they belong to society as a whole,? Or individuals within it?

At which point, who gets to dispose of them, individuals or society?

It is actually true that there must be a system of clearing up those which are truly abandoned. So there’s a line somewhere.

However, I have a feeling about this. The reason that councils aren’t using those powers is because they are expensive to use. The council then has to pay to bring them up to spec. Cheaper to be renting somewhere already at spec, no?

25 thoughts on “So, who do they belong to?”

  1. I sneeze in threes

    I’m sure quite a few will be in the estate of the recently deceased but haven’t yet been put up for sale.

    It would also be interesting to where they are, how many are in places no one wants to live.

  2. Are these figures inclusive of already-owned council properties?

    Because there’s (thankfully!) hardly any council owned properties where I live, but the closest one took TWO YEARS to be filled after the old lady who lived there died.

  3. “Vince Cable, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said such properties should be used to provide homes for some of the most vulnerable in society…”

    Which in LibDem-speak means immigrants, the mentally ill and ex-criminals.

  4. Our council took about a decade to compulsory purchase an old church that had been abandoned – its owners had been warned several times that the council would pull it down if they did not. And eventually someone started a fire in it.

    Back when they owned council houses (last century) the council was pretty bad at doing much with its own stock. These days they’d have to hire companies to do the work, with no housing stock to maintain the council has no employees to work on buildings.

  5. Similar story to Martin near my parents – a particularly attractive large house was abandoned after a DIY type had run out of money and left it to become a ruin. He disappeared off the face the the earth, (moved to Australia was the local rumor), and the council CPed and then demolished it, but only after about 15 years, and only because it started shedding brickwork onto the A road next to it.
    I doubt it was of much value as a project to rebuild by the point the council pulled it down – the brickwork was being wrecked by plants growing in it, and the roof was falling in.
    It also cost the council about £20k for the actual demolition (mainly because the site was difficult to access, and it was a hard building to drop without damaging the houses around it), which they’ve never seen back (the land is valueless as you’d never get planning to put another house on it to modern building regs).

  6. Interesting isn’t it? Those empties, they belong to society as a whole,? Or individuals within it?

    If not to individuals, where does one ultimately draw the line? An old car kept in a garage, unused? Does that also belong to the left?

    It might become a fine line between “empty” and “holiday home” and “not fully utilised” (or not as fully ultilised as some would like to believe it should be)?

    And it’s a (non) problem that is easily solved by making the process for obtaining planning a whole lot simpler.

  7. As an aside – if the properties are inhabitable (maybe even not…?) they are now liable for council tax?

    Some friends of mine were pounced on for council tax after 6 months when a rebuild refurbishment only had half the windows in it.

  8. Vince Cable is an old fashioned Land Taxer and chairman of the recently formed All Party Parliamentary group on the subject.

  9. Which in LibDem-speak means immigrants, the mentally ill and ex-criminals.

    None of which Sir Vince would like as his neighbours, of course…even if all three categories are well represented in the Limp Dicks.

  10. There is a way to clear up truely abandoned property. Adverse possession.

    Occupy abandoned property.
    Investigate Land Registry.
    If property registered, write to registered owner informing them you have taken possession.
    After 10 years actual, intentional, unchallenged, occupation, file for titled possession.

  11. @tomo – the figure of over 3000 for Cornwall is “6 months or more” – i’m surprised it’s so low! certain towns have a lot of houses that are summer holiday homes – used for maybe 6 weeks a year and then maybe a week holiday for a family friend etc… all in July / Aug / Sept… so empty for 9 months easily…

  12. theProle,

    Was that the big house beside the A3, just south of Hindhead, which was decaying away from about 1995 or so?

  13. Sorry, phone call.

    A local community group around our way have just done this with a patch of land which they are now registering as a villiage green.

  14. A fair few of these ten year houses will be in London. 90% of the given figure will be in total shitholes no one in their right mind would want to live in, but these will be used as a smokescreen and it will be inferred that really nice properties in nice areas are deliberately left empty because EVIL n stuff.

  15. So, were I to buy a vacation property in the UK and leave it empty for most of the year, I’d be liable to some lefty shite seizing it?

    Wouldn’t happen in Mexico. Mexicans understand that absentee owners are a great asset to be harvested with non resident taxes and fees. Costs to the government are low because non-residents don’t use much in the way of government services. The non residents bring even more money into the country as they hire locals to watch and maintain the property. They also pay utility bills, which always have a standby charge portion.

    But of course the stupidest Mexican is more clever than a British socialist.

  16. In San Francisco I once attended an annual “state of the city” breakfast speech by then mayor Willie Brown. In response to a question about housing he commented that there were many empty apartment buildings owned by widows who owned them free and clear, but who just let them sit empty rather than contend with the city’s onerous landlord/tenant laws. They likely would leave them vacant until they died and passed them on to their heirs at a stepped up tax basis. He observed that quite a number of apartments would come on the market if they could only create the incentives for such people to rent them. That observation largely went over like a lead balloon.

  17. As a consolidated county-city isn’t San Fransciso able to create its own less onerous landlord/tenant laws?

  18. jgh. Yes, it certainly could but has little intention of doing so. The politicians are unable to perform the critical thinking that would enable them to see the association between restrictive laws and less housing.

  19. @Jason Lynch

    No, house in question was in North Wales, but I suspect it’s not a totally unknown story elsewhere.

  20. Bit of an odd one this; like Tim, I suspect that the existing powers are probably useless.

    That said; I know of several properties around here that have been empty for 9-12 months. They’ve been on the market for that long, and simply haven’t sold. Presumably, the council could be a buyer of last resort, but at what price? They’re at an apparent discount to the market already.

    The other thing is that talking to various builders and architects over the years, there’s the general opinion that a building that has been empty for about 2 years is well on the way to developing expensive problems. Chances are that by much over five years, it’s a demolish and rebuild job.

    That 11,000 number; at 45m households, that’s about √FA of the stock. There are probably bloody good reasons why they’ve been empty for that long.

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