It’s National Empty Homes Week from 15 to 21 October. To mark the occasion, Dorset councils are inviting people to join a national campaign.
National Empty Homes Week aims to raise awareness of empty properties and encourage you to report these to the councils.
Data shows that 205,000 homes across England have been empty for more than six months. Over 5000 more than the previous year. This 2.6 per cent rise is the first increase since 2008, although the proportion of England’s homes long-term empty is broadly stable at around 0.85 per cent.
There are currently 217 empty homes in North Dorset, 429 empty homes in West Dorset and 231 empty homes in Weymouth & Portland.
Of the total 877 empty homes across the three council areas, 233 have been empty for over two years.
It has been estimated that keeping a property empty could cost as much as £135 a week, or £7,018 every year.
If a property is left empty for over two years, the owner will be charged a Council Tax Premium at a rate of 150 per cent.
For example the owner of an empty property paying £1,867.32 will see their Council Tax Bill increase by £933.66 per year to £2,800.98.
Parliament is proposing a Bill to further increase Council Tax on properties left empty for two years or more. Amendments to the Rating (Property in Common Occupation) and Council Tax (Empty Dwellings) bill would also mean councils could increase the premium significantly on empty homes.
There is a high demand for housing with around 4,300 households on the housing register across the three council areas.
Empty homes officers work with landlords to provide support, guidance and encouragement in order to return empty homes to use.
In West Dorset, 24 long-term empty homes were brought into use by the Empty Homes Officer between in 2017/18. 15 homes have been brought back into use so far this year.
Cllr Tim Yarker, West Dorset District Councils Portfolio Holder for Housing, said: “With our housing shortage, it is wrong to have homes empty unnecessarily.
“Refurbishing and repairing empty properties helps to improve the look and feel of a neighbourhood. If a property needs renovation, in certain circumstances owners could be eligible for a low-cost loan.”
Low-cost funding is available through Wessex Resolutions CIC when supported by the council. Loans of up to £15,000 may be offered.
More information about loans and grants can be found on dorsetforyou.com or by contacting the empty homes officers on 01305 252469.
To report a property which you believe is empty, contact the empty homes officers by telephone or email at firstname.lastname@example.org