Life in the Lakes - October 2018

National Empty Homes Week is almost upon us once again (15 to 19 October).  It’s helpful that our EHN conference is taking place the same week this year and I’m really looking forward to the varied mix of workshops and speakers. I find I often come away from the conference having learned something new and with another ‘tool’ for my empty homes toolkit. It’s also great to meet up with long-term friends in the empty homes ‘world’ and to meet new ones too.  You can’t beat networking and sharing best practice!

For Empty Homes week our Cumbria Empty Property Group has produced its annual newsletter – it’s simply made up of text and contact details for each of our six members on the type of empty homes work their council carries out. We’ve settled on producing a newsletter each year as it’s easy, quick and effective. If you’d like to use our PDF as a template to tailor a newsletter for your empty homes forum or for your council, please contact me at empty.homes@southlakeland.gov.uk, you would be most welcome to use this. There’s no point reinventing the wheel!

My main focus this autumn is to contact owners currently paying the Premium.  I’m also writing to those who are shortly due to become liable for the Premium.  My approach is to make them aware of the government’s plans to double, treble or quadruple the Premium, depending on how long the home has been empty.  I’m using this as a ‘lever’ to engage them in bringing their empty home back into use before the doubling of the Premium from April 2019. It seems to be working so far. 

I am well aware that there are pros and cons to increasing the Premium, and I’m sure many owners all over the country will suddenly be furnishing their properties and calling them second homes. This would mean that on the one hand the number of empty homes on our lists will reduce (a ‘pro’) but the number of second homes will increase (a ‘con’), distorting year-end figures for the annual council tax base returns. And let’s not forget the fact that those furnished homes will still remain empty…

Look forward to seeing my empty homes colleagues at the conference.

Best wishes from the Lakes,

Lynne Leach, Empty Homes Officer, South Lakeland District Council

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