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Meeting our aims and objectives

Part of the empty homes policy for Torbay.

In bringing empty homes back into use we will work with owners and the public and provide a co-ordinated approach across all departments within the local authority. It is recognised that there is a need to work both on a proactive and reactive basis and that there is no single solution that will resolve problems associated with empty properties.

Reporting of empty properties

Members of the public are encouraged to let the Council know if they believe dwellings to be uninhabited and unfurnished, particularly if they are causing a nuisance. The Council will determine if the property is empty using the available Council Tax information and will carry out an assessment to determine if action will be taken. Please be aware that the Council is unable to share information, unless there is a lawful basis to do so.


Report an empty home

Help and assistance for owners

The Council will work directly with empty homeowners to encourage them to bring much needed dwellings back into use, providing tools and mechanisms, where appropriate. Where owners have limited resources, we will encourage the sale of the asset, so that the dwelling can be occupied at the soonest opportunity.

Visit the Empty homes webpage

Financial assistance

The Council will look to work in partnership to explore the use of low-cost loans to assist owners of empty homes to carry out any necessary repairs, or improvements to enable the property to be brought back into use. Loans would be repaid once the property has been let, occupied, or sold and monies recycled back into the loan scheme. Furthermore, schemes such as ‘purchase and repair’ will be explored, whereby dwellings are brought back into use, assisted through Homes England grants and Council contributions to increase social housing stock.

A targeted methodology to prioritise work

For properties over 2 years empty we will prioritise work using our ‘empty property priority assessment tool’ to prioritise those properties requiring attention. Empty properties will be prioritised for action using a scoring system across the following criteria:

  1. Length of time empty
  2. Social impact
  3. High profile location (main artery)
  4. Complaints received
  5. Structural issues
  6. Council Tax debts

Each property will be analysed individually having regard to its circumstances and appropriate action will be taken based on detailed individual analysis. Where owners do not respond, and there is no evidence to suggest that they are taking action, or where the property has been identified as ‘high priority’, a proactive approach will be adopted and the most appropriate enforcement action will be considered to bring dwellings back into use.

Across all targeted work, owners will receive frequent contact from the Council. Standard letters will include:

  • a link to our website for help
  • information on VAT relief
  • advice for those considering letting
  • legislative requirements
  • referral to the Council’s ‘Landlord Tenancy Matching Scheme’, a free service that helps landlords with a competitive range of financial and other benefits, for example deposit and rent in advance
  • Referral to reputable trade professionals, via Trading Standards ‘Buy With Confidence’ and Planning Portal ‘Find a Trade Professional’ schemes

A proactive enforcement policy

Based on information received and the priority assessment tool, a proactive policy will be adopted toward empty properties. The following enforcement options will be considered and implemented where necessary to ensure that the property is brought back into use:

  1. Safety of empty homes –Notice to make a property safe or allow emergency action to be taken to make it safe. Notice to secure a property that is open to access, where it is evident that intruders are gaining access.
  2. Eradication of vermin- notice to clear any land of vermin and remove waste/deposits/accumulations likely to attract vermin
  3. Abatement of a nuisance – Notice to abate a statutory nuisance affecting, or impacting a neighbouring property, such as an accumulation, or deposit that is prejudicial to health, or a nuisance, such as water ingress etc
  4. Unsightly condition of empty home and adjoining land – notice to address unsightly land or external appearance of a property, as prescribed in legislation
  5. Empty Dwelling Management Order – explore as appropriate, where other enforcement actions have proved ineffective, to carry out necessary works to secure its occupation and to let to tenants for a set period

For each property, the range of enforcement actions will be considered, working collaboratively across Council departments to make sure that the particular circumstances of each case are considered. Where appropriate, regard will be made to the Council’s Housing and Planning Enforcement Policies.

The Council will continue to work with owners to make sure that a long-term empty homes are brought into use by agreement. However, where that is not achieved, or is not reasonably achievable within an appropriate timescale, the use of enforcement powers will be considered to ensure properties are brought back into use. Details of the Council’s procedure including timescales for action for all work on empty homes can be found in Appendix 2.

The National Fraud Initiative (NFI)

Torbay Council will look at information under the National Fraud Initiative (NFI). Each year the Council uploads its Council Tax charge base data alongside other data streams, such as the Electoral Roll, Insurance claimants, payroll data. We also use ‘in house data matching’ for the purpose of reviewing empty properties, by cross-referencing data, such as the Housing Register (Devon Home Choice). This is a mandatory exercise for all local authorities overseen by the Cabinet Office. The NFI then uses algorithms to identify properties where there has potentially been a change in occupancy for review. If records suggest that that the status of the dwelling does not match Council Tax records, we will make enquiries at the property.

Dwellings exempt from Council Tax payment