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					                          Rutland County Council

                   Empty Homes Improvement Plan

                                    2008-2011

FOREWORD

There are a number of privately owned empty homes in the County, some of which
are not maintained in good condition. An empty property can impact on the quality of
the local environment, creating a poor image of an area. It may lead to increased
fear of crime, attract anti-social behaviour and make a place less attractive for local
people to live in.

Whilst we recognise that there are relatively low numbers of empty homes in Rutland
that are in a poor condition, it needs to be acknowledged that each empty property is
a wasted resource, particularly where there are limited opportunities for meeting
housing needs in the area.

It is accepted that turnover in the housing market will lead to some homes remaining
vacant for a period of time, however it is those homes which remain vacant for a
longer term, for example 6 months or more, that give rise to concern.

This Improvement Plan has been developed with the aim of ensuring that every
effort is made to return these valuable homes back into use, and that
neighbourhoods are not unnecessarily adversely affected by empty homes.

This Plan links closely with the Council’s Housing Strategy, Corporate Plan, Rutland
Performance Plan, Rutland Community Safety Partnership –Partnership Plan 2008-
11, Homelessness Strategy; Sustainable Community Strategy; Rutland Community
Plan (Rutland Together).

Roger Begy OBE
Leader of the Council
BACKGROUND

1.    Introduction

1.1   Empty homes can be vacant for a variety of reasons. They can normally be
      separated into two types.

1.2   Transactional vacancies: As homes are bought and sold, or re-let, there will
      be a period of vacancy in between the changes in occupation. Such
      ‘transactional vacancies’ are not usually the cause of problems, but are a
      normal part of the operation of the housing market. These properties seldom
      require the intervention of the Council in order to ensure they are brought
      back into use within 6 months.

      Problematic vacancies: These are properties that are inactive in the housing
      market and empty for six months or more. These long-term properties cause
      the greatest concern and will be considered when assessing the extent of the
      problem and how best to target remedial action.

1.3   In 2006 881 homes were known to be empty in Rutland. Of which 25 were
      known to be Council owned properties. August 2008 Council Tax reports
      showed 163 properties were empty for at least 6 months. Known reasons for
      these empty properties include a deceased owner, the owner being in prison,
      the owner being in hospital or residential care home, or simply that the
      landlord didn’t wish to let their property to anyone out of fear that the tenants
      may damage it. A separate tally was recorded for second homes, this
      accounts for a further 156 empty properties. It is recognised that as Rutland is
      an area of pleasant countryside relatively close to a number of urban
      conurbations, this is a feature of the Rutland Housing Stock and brings
      prosperity to the area.

1.4   Why empty Homes are a problem in Rutland: There are 163 Long term Empty
      homes in Rutland. This accounts for 20% of the current Council Housing
      Waiting List (approximately 836). These 163 properties account for
      approximately 1.6% of the total Housing stock of 15,649. By reducing the
      number of empty homes we will contribute to making more affordable housing
      available to people in Rutland. It will also make better use of the existing stock
      and help reduce the need to build on Greenfield sites.

1.5   The 2005 House Condition Survey (HCS) covering Rutland, Melton &
      Harborough estimated an overall figure of empty dwellings as 5% (approx 720
      dwellings). This figure resulted in responses relating to properties that have
      been empty for more than 2 months. However it should be noted that houses
      do sometimes require to be empty as part of a healthy housing market. The
      number of long term empty properties in Rutland was estimated at about 100
      and of that 60 were estimated to be not suitable for habitation with an average
      cost to make habitable of £54,000.

1.6   It is interesting to note that for a number of the properties empty for more than
      6 months, there are probate issues following the death of the owner. This
      suggests that a number of empty homes in the County are a result of ongoing
      legal ownership matters.
1.7   However, it should be recognised that:-

      (a)     Each property can become a major cause for concern for those who
              live nearby if the house and/or garden looks unkempt or attracts
              vandalism, arson or other forms of anti-social behaviour.

      (b)     In an area of high demand for affordable housing and with many
              households who are homeless or in need of larger accommodation, an
              empty property is a wasted housing resource. There are currently 836
              households on the housing register in Rutland, and in 2007-2008
              approximately 100 households applied for help under the
              homelessness legislation. In 40 of these cases the Council was under
              a legal obligation to rehouse the household.

      (c)     There is a loss of valuable council tax revenue, as only 50% council tax
              is payable on an empty property for the first 6 months. After 6 months
              the full amount is payable. Further details are available at
              http://www.rutland.gov.uk/pp/service/directory.asp?id=5341&Tree=525
              4,5333&DetailID=2672

      (d)     An empty property is also a waste of a resource for an owner as there
              are holding costs incurred for empty properties, for example,
              maintenance, insurance and investment in security measures. It has
              been estimated1 that the annual cost of keeping a home empty is
              around £7,000.
              (1Empty Homes Agency: www emptyhomes.com)


2.    Background and other strategic objectives

2.1   The need to reduce empty homes has been widely recognised for a number
      of years, mainly through the campaigning of organisations such as the Empty
      Homes Agency (www.emptyhomes.com).

2.2   Nationally, the government has identified that the ‘reuse’ of empty homes and
      the conversion of vacant commercial property lie at the heart of the
      government’s commitment to securing Urban Renaissance in towns and cities
      (Empty Property: Unlocking the Potential, ODPM 2003).

2.3   The government’s response to the Barker Review 2 (which highlighted the
      need to increase the supply of housing), states that, “In addition to new build,
      it is essential to make better use of existing housing stock and one way of
      doing this is to address the issue of the number of private sector empty
      properties vacant for 6 months or more”.

      (2The government’s response to Kate Barker’s Review of Housing Supply.   December 2005)

2.4   The increasing commitment to meeting housing needs is also emphasised in
      the Local Government White Paper3, published in October 2006. In addition,
      Planning Policy Statement 3– Housing4 encourages local planning authorities
      to develop positive policies to identify and bring into residential use empty
      houses and buildings and, where appropriate, acquire properties under
      compulsory procedures.(3 Strong and Prosperous Communities – the Local Government
                                      4
      White Paper. 26 October 2006,       Planning Policy Statement 3 (PP33) –Housing. November
      2006)

2.5   An Empty Homes Improvement Plan (the Plan) is an essential part of any
      local authority strategy for the provision of housing for those in need; the
      regeneration and sustainability of rundown sites encompasses the work not
      only of several different departments within the Council but also many
      different organisations, groups and individuals within the private sector.

2.6   The government has introduced a number of measures aimed at encouraging
      the re-use of empty homes and has produced guidance and handbooks which
      provides advice to help bring empty properties into use. These can be
      accessed via the Council’s website www.rutland.gov.uk/emptyhomes

2.7   Regional Priorities The Regional Housing Board for the East Midlands has
      developed a Regional Housing Strategy which sets out the housing needs of
      the region, identifies priorities for action and demonstrates how these link with
      wider regeneration work and other strategies and plans. A copy of the
      document can be found at
      http://www.goem.gov.uk/497296/docs/191913/232488/288818/strategy
      Policy 5 of the Regional Housing Strategy identifies ‘Renewing and
      Revitalising the Private Sector’ as a priority and states that the development
      of strategies and plans to tackle the problems of empty properties can
      underpin initiatives aimed at delivering this priority.
2.8   The Draft East Midland Regional Plan (September 2006) encourages the
      production of Empty Property Strategies linked to planning policies. Policy 17
      of the Draft Plan outlines the aim to achieve a 3% vacancy rate for the region
      as a whole.
2.9   Local Priorities The Council and its partners have identified key aims and
      priorities which the Plan links to, and can play a part in delivering. These are
      listed below.

      (a)   Rutland Performance Plan- listening to improve;
      (b)   Housing Strategy (Chapter 8) ;
      (c)   Rutland Community Safety Partnership –Partnership Plan 2008-11;
      (d)   Homelessness strategy;
      (e)   Community Strategy;
      (f)   Rutland Community Plan (Rutland Together).
3.          Monitoring Performance

3.1         Prior to April 2008, the national best value performance indicator (BVPI) 64
            required a local authority to monitor private sector empty properties that are
            returned into occupation or demolished as a result of direct action by the local
            authority.

            Best Value Performance Indicators were replaced for 2008/09 by a new set of
            National Indicators and do not include an indicator for empty homes brought
            back into use. To enable the Council to monitor performance in bringing back
            into use empty homes, a local indicator is required; the target in the annual
            action plan for empty homes being brought back into use will be used as a
            local indicator, and performance against this target will be included in the
            annual report to Cabinet.

3.2         No properties have been brought back into use since 2003 as a direct result
            of the Council’s action.

4.          Delivering the Empty Homes Improvement Plan

4.1         In order to bring a greater number of empty properties back into use, a
            robust planned approach to tackling the problem is required.

4.2         The Council wishes to tackle empty properties and bring them back into use
            and to consider innovative ways to achieve this. It is proposed that this will be
            achieved as follows:

4.3         Commitment of staff and resources

            To fully carry out the aims, objectives and actions outlined in this Plan,
            existing officer resources will be committed to:

            i)      Develop up-to-date knowledge and expertise of relevant issues through
                    ongoing research, liaising with other internal sections and external
                    partners;
            ii)     Initiate and record reports of empty properties from the general public,
                    Members, Parish Councils and other Council sections, and partner
                    organisations;
            iii)    Carry out surveys and site visits;
            iv)     Chase progress on individual cases;
            v)      Advise owners on the options available to them in bringing their empty
                    property back into use;
            vi)     Develop new initiatives and incentives so that a complete range of
                    enabling and enforcing options is available to use in appropriate
                    circumstances; and
            vii)    Work with other Council departments to enable a corporate approach to
                    be developed that supports the bringing of empty properties back into
                    use.

      4.4          Raise awareness of empty homes issues and giving advice

                   Rutland County Council will work corporately to share information, develop
solutions to reduce empty homes in the County and involve external partners.
In particular, the following partners will have a role:

      Public Protection Team - Officers within the Public Protection Team
       are well placed to identify empty private sector homes and those
       properties likely to become vacant because of disrepair. They have an
       overview of local housing standards, and their technical knowledge and
       input can accelerate the processes by which homes are brought back
       into use. They will be able to assist by providing information on
       availability of financial assistance, their application procedures and
       eligibility criteria. They will also be able to advise owners on
       enforcement action that may be taken as a last resort.

      Revenues - If a property is left empty, the owners only have to pay
       50% of the council tax charge. Owners have to apply to the Council for
       this discount. At this point, the Council receives some of the most
       valuable information on the properties which are empty in Rutland.
       Officers involved in providing council tax information to owners of
       empty homes can invite such owners to contact the relevant officer to
       discuss the options available to return properties into occupation.
       Information can also be sent out with council tax demands.

      Elected Members are able to promote the Plan within their local
       community. In addition their local knowledge of empty properties in
       their ward enables them to identify empty properties within their
       respective wards and refer them to the Public Protection Team.

      Housing Strategy - Identification of housing need and how best to try
       to meet this need is an integral part of the Housing Strategy, which
       outlines how reduction in empty properties can contribute to increased
       provision of homes. The Housing Strategy Manager can assist in
       identifying the need for affordable housing, and work with partners to
       purchase or lease empty properties to help meet this need. The
       Manager is also responsible for the management of the Spire Contract.
       The introduction of a Private Sector Leasing Scheme is currently being
       investigated.

      Landlords and Estate Agents- Contact and dialogue with Landlords
       and Estate Agents will be important in the delivery of this Plan. We aim
       to establish a Landlords forum in 2009 to share information and best
       practice with Landlords and Estate Agents, with the aim of returning
       empty properties back into use and establishing closer working
       relationships.


      External Partners - Partnerships exist with other local authorities via
       the East Midland Empty Property Forum. The opportunity to forge
       partnerships with for example, landlords, homeowners, estate agents,
       letting agents, and building societies and the Home Improvement Trust,
       will be investigated. The Home Improvement Trust provides an equity
       release scheme.
      A further list of Council Services and external organisations that may be
      involved in the delivery of this plan is included in Appendix 4

4.5      Compile an empty homes database

            This will include records of property owners, addresses and vacation
            dates. It will record and diarise any action taken in an attempt to return
            empty properties back into use and to improve monitoring of the
            scheme. Information can be obtained from council tax records of
            empty properties, Land Registry and the electoral register. Improved
            recording will also assist the Council in reporting its progress in
            returning empty properties back into occupation


4.6      Bringing empty properties back into use – direct action

            The Council will pursue action through formal or informal means to
            ensure that properties are not left empty, particularly those which
            have been empty for more than 6 months. Appendix 2 provides a
            guide to the available action open to the Council to ensure that
            effective use will be made of these properties.

4.7      Direct Action: The informal approach

            The Council will strive to work with owners of empty properties to bring
            them back into use through an informal approach in the first instance.
            Accordingly every effort will be made to establish who owns the empty
            property and their contact details.


            Once the information regarding ownership has been obtained, the
            Council will work towards establishing the owner’s future plans for the
            property and the proposed timescale. Providing that there is evidence
            that plans are in place for the owner to:
                (a)       Occupy the property;
                (b)       Let it to tenants;
                (c)       Offer it for sale on the open market; or
                (d)       Have another proposed use within a reasonable
                          timescale

            then no further action will be taken by the Council other than to monitor
            the situation through to a satisfactory conclusion.

            The Council is keen to work with the owners of these properties.
            Advice and assistance will be given by the Council on the various
            options available to owners to help to bring their empty property back
            into use. Some of these options are outlined in Appendix 1.
      4.8      Financial Assistance.

                  The use of financial incentives to encourage owners of empty homes to
                  bring them back into use will be investigated. This will include using
                  some of the council’s capital budget for private sector housing repairs
                  grants, the identification of external funding, and existing schemes in
                  used by other local authorities. The feasibility of linking financial
                  assistance to the acquisition of nomination rights will also be
                  investigated

                  This work will be included in the annual report to Cabinet.


      4.9      Private Sector Leasing Scheme

                The Council does not operate a Private Sector Leasing Scheme.
                However the feasibility of a Private Sector Leasing Scheme is currently
                being investigated and the Council may consider the introduction of such
                a scheme subject to financial viability. It is likely to involve a partnership
                of the Council, a lettings/management agency (possibly a RSL) and
                private landlords. The partnership would encourage landlords to let their
                properties in return for a secure income stream, good management
                standards, and a promise to return the properties in good condition. The
                Council would use any properties that came forward in this way to
                rehouse people who are homeless or who are on the waiting list.

                In exchange for the nomination rights the landlord is guaranteed rent for
                a set number of years, no stress from managing the property, no council
                tax to pay and peace of mind that they are providing a home in an area
                of high demand for those wishing to remain in the area but who cannot
                afford to buy. These properties will be offered to people on the Council’s
                housing waiting list, and they might well be attractive to those who do not
                have a realistic chance of an offer of re-housing into Council or RSL
                properties. These properties could also be used to re-house homeless
                households

4.10           Direct Action: The formal approach

                As previously stated the Council will pursue every available course of
                action to ensure that a property is brought back into use through the
                informal measures described above. However, if this is unsuccessful,
                further measures will be considered by the Council. The Council does
                have a number of legal options open to it and will use those powers
                where it is deemed necessary and all avenues of informal action have
                failed and where the property continues to blight a neighbourhood. This
                may include the service of statutory notices, or even compulsory
                purchase where appropriate. An overview of the various legal options
                open to the Council, are outlined in Appendix 3.

5.          Action Plan

5.1             In setting out the mechanisms that will be used to increase the numbers
             of empty homes brought back into use an Action Plan for 2008/09 has
             been produced. This sets out key activities required to deliver improved
             performance.


6.     Conclusion

6.1          Whilst Rutland does not have a large number of empty properties
             remaining vacant for 6 months or more, nor does it experience
             concentrated areas of void housing, there is a need to proactively
             manage the reduction of longer term empty homes. An empty home is
             a wasted resource.

6.2          The Plan will provide a ‘route map’ for the work that is being and will
             be carried out to tackle this issue.


Contact Details

In the first instance you should contact the Public Protection Team

Telephone: 01572722577

e-mail: customerservices@rutland.gov.uk.

Or write to us at:-

Rutland County Council, Community Services Department, Catmose, Oakham,
Rutland LE15 6HP

Council Office opening hours are:

       8:30 am –4.45pm Monday to Thursday;
       8:30 am - 4.15 pm Fridays
       Appendix 1: Options proposed to be made available to empty property
       owners to bring back into use

                                   Advice/assistance to
                 Agency who        be provided by           Additional
Option                             Rutland County
                 can assist                                 information
                                   Council staff
Sale on open Estate agents         Details of estate        Purchaser may be
market       And Rutland           agents. Planning         entitled to Empty
             County Council        advice on e.g. change    Homes Assistance
             Planning              of use from              (TBC and subject to
             Service               commercial to            conditions).
                                   residential.

Private          Rutland County    Details of bond
renting          Council housing   scheme, free
                 strategy team /   advertising, pre-
                 RSL               tenancy
                                   determinations, and
                                   housing law advice.


Private          Letting/          Details of               List of agents to be
renting          management        letting/management       included on website
                 agents            agents                   (with the agents
                                                            permission)
Empty            Rutland           Applying for and         Possible grants are
Property         County Council    administering empty      being investigated
Grants           Public            property grants.         and will be detailed in
(not yet in      Protection                                 future amendments to
place)           Team                                       the plan.



Registered       RSLs involved     Whether any schemes      Limited funding for
Social           in scheme         currently operating.     these schemes. Not
Landlords                          Details of RSLs          all properties are
(RSLs)                             purchasing properties.   suitable.
purchasing
empty
properties for
affordable
housing
Private          Rutland County    Whether any schemes      Limited need for
Sector           Council           currently operating.     properties for this
Leasing          Housing           Referral to Homeless     purpose. Not all
Scheme           Strategy          and Housing Support      properties are
                 Manager           team for details         suitable.
                                   regarding leasing.
Appendix 2 – Action Plan 2008/09

                            Target
Task                                   Resources     Responsibility      Anticipated Outcomes         Measures of Success
                           Date
1. Promote the Plan        August 2008 Staff time    Senior EHO ,        Increased awareness,         Key stakeholders and public
with key stakeholders      onwards                   Communications      resulting in more empty      shown to be aware of empty
and public                                           Officer.            properties being             property issues and how the
                                                                         identified and brought       partners are working together
                                                                         back into use. Update        to tackle.
                                                                         website.
2. Develop a database      September    Staff time   Senior EHO/         Accurate information and     Database developed and kept
of long term empty         2008                      Public Protection   audit trail for the local    up to date continuously.
properties Database        Ongoing                   Manager             indicator (para.3.1) Clear
continuously updated                                                     demonstrable
with new cases and                                                       understanding of the
progress                                                                 extent of the issue in
                                                                         Rutland. Information
                                                                         easily made available to
                                                                         partners who can assist
                                                                         in bringing back into use.
3. Bring 4 empty           March 2009   Staff Time   Senior EHO/         4 empty properties           Meeting Target
properties back into                                 Public Protection   available for occupation
occupation                                           Manager

4. Investigate the         TBC          Staff time   Housing Strategy    Creation of a new            Creation of a scheme bringing
feasibility of a Private                             Manager             scheme                       more empty homes back into
Sector Lettings scheme                                                                                use/ manage successfully any
                                                                                                      homes signed up to the
                                                                                                      scheme.
5. Investigate possible    Ongoing      Staff time   Senior EHO/         Begin offering some          Increase in number of empty
financial incentives to                              Public Protection   form of financial            properties brought back into
assist Landlords of                                  Manager             incentive to empty           use.
Empty Homes in
bringing them back into                                                 homes owners.
use. Investigate
external and internal
funding streams. To
include feasibility of
securing nomination
rights.

6. Produce annual         March 2009   Staff time   Public Protection   Continued               Approval of annual action
action plan for 2009/10                             Manager             implementation of the   plan by Cabinet
and a report of the                                                     Empty Homes
outcomes of the                                     Senior EHO          Improvement plan
2008/2009 action plan.
To be considered by
cabinet
Appendix 3- Powers available to the Council

Problem          Legislation      Power Granted                                                                        Department
Condition and    Section 215      To require owner to take necessary steps to improve the condition and                Development
appearance of    Town and         appearance of the property. Where the owner fails to take action the Council may     Control
property         Country          undertake the work and an appropriate charge will be imposed on the owner.
adversely        Planning Act
affecting the    1990
amenity of the   Enforced Sale:   If the Council carry out works as above, the Council can ensure that the costs of    Legal Services
neighbourhood    Law of           the work can be recovered for example through a charge on the property. If the
                 Property Act     monies remain unpaid, the Council may force the sale of the property.
                 1925
                 Compulsory       Where all available avenues of action have been explored and have been               Legal Services
                 Purchase:        unsuccessful, as a last resort the Council can use compulsory purchase orders.
                 Housing Act      These orders have to be approved by the Government Office and may be subject
                 1985, section    to public inquiry. The Council’s intention to use these powers will be
                 17               communicated with owners who would be given the opportunity to voluntarily take
                                  the necessary remedial action to resolve the situation. Disposal by the Council of
                                  a property subject to a compulsory purchase order, would normally mean that the
                                  property would be transferred for use as Affordable Housing. However, if this
                                  proves not to be possible, it will be disposed of on the open market to an owner
                                  who makes an undertaking to bring the property back into use as a home.


                 Empty            In specific circumstances for properties which have been unoccupied for a period     Public Protection
                 Dwelling         of 6 months or more enables an authority, once approved by a residential             Team
                 Management       property tribunal, to issue an EDMO which results in an empty property becoming
                 Orders:          re-occupied.
                 Housing Act
                 2007
Problem        Legislation      Power Granted                                                                        Department




Dangerous or   Building Act     To require the owner to make the property safe (Section 77) or enable the local      Building Control
dilapidated    1984, Sections   authority to take emergency action to make the building safe (Section 78).
buildings or   77 and 78
structures


               Housing Act      To require the owner to carry out works where the local authority consider           Public Protection
               2004, Section    housing conditions to be unacceptable, on the basis of the impact of hazards on      Team
               5 and 7          the health or safety of the most vulnerable potential occupant.



               Enforced Sale:   If the Council carry out works as above, the Council can ensure that the costs of    Legal Services
               Law of           the work can be recovered for example through a charge on the property. If the
               Property Act     monies remain unpaid, the Council may force the sale of the property.
               1925


               Demolition       In certain circumstances the condition of the empty property will not warrant        Public Protection
               Order:           bringing it back into use will not be feasible and the most satisfactory course of   Team
               Housing Act      action will be to serve a demolition order.
               1985, Section
               265
Problem             Legislation       Power Granted                                                                          Department




Unsecured           Local             To require the owner to take steps to secure a property or allow the local authority   Building Control
properties (if it   Government        to board it up in an emergency.
poses the risk      (Miscellaneous
that it may be      Provisions) Act
entered or          1982, Section
suffer              29
vandalism,
arson or
similar)
Blocked or          Local             To require the owner to remove obstructions from private sewers.                       Public Protection
defective           Government                                                                                               Team
drainage or         (Miscellaneous
private sewers      Provisions) Act
                    1976, Section
                    35

                    Building Act      To require the owner to address blocked or defective drainage.                         Public Protection
                    1984, Section                                                                                            Team
                    59
                   Public Health    To require the owner to address defective drainage or private sewers.                  Public Protection
                   Act 1961,                                                                                               Team
                   Section 17



Vermin (If it is   Public Health    To require the owner to remove waste so that vermin is not attracted to the site       Public Protection
either present     Act 1961,        (relates to accumulation of rubbish). Obligation of occupier of land to notify local   Team
or there is a      Section 34       authority of rats and mice.
risk of
attracting

vermin that        Prevention of    Power to require the treatment and control of vermin                                   Public Protection
may                Damage by                                                                                               Team
detrimentally      Pests Act
affect people’s    1949, Section
health)            4

                   Environmental    Power to require owners causing a statutory nuisance arising from the defective        Public Protection
                   Protection Act   condition of a property                                                                Team
                   1990, Section
                   80


                   Building Act     Power to serve an abatement notice on any premises that are in such a defective        Public Protection
                   1984, Section    state as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance.                                    Team
                   76
                 Public Health   To require the owner to remove waste from the property (relates to accumulation   Public Protection
                 Act 1961,       of rubbish).                                                                      Team
                 Section 34
                 (see above)


Unsightly land   Town and        To require the owner to address unsightly land or the external appearance of a    Development
and property     Country         property.                                                                         Control
affecting the    Planning Act                                                                                      /Planning
amenity of an    1990, Section
area             215
Appendix 4- Other departments and organisations who may assist in the implementation of the Empty Homes plan.

  1. Building Control - Building Control is responsible for inspecting empty properties which have been reported as dangerous and
     there is therefore scope for these properties to be referred to the relevant officer. Officers are also well placed to ident ify empty
     homes whilst carrying out their duties in the district.
  2. Environmental Health (Pollution) Officers and Pest Control Officers- can identify empty homes in the course of their duties and
     refer them to the relevant officer.
  3. Housing Benefits - Owners of empty properties may be reluctant to offer rented properties to tenants who are in receipt of
     benefits due to concerns about the benefits system and speed of payments. Officers offer information and advice which help
     reassure property owners.
  4. Communications Officer - Can advise on the marketing and advertising of the Plan and its implementation. This may prove
     valuable in reaching owners of Empty Homes.
  5. Planning Services - Planning officers are well placed to develop relationships with building owners and developers and thus
     promote the Plan. Local planning policy can also facilitate the bringing of empty properties back into residential use, for examp le,
     through permission to turn houses into flats and the change of use for other buildings to residential. Such changes will be
     encouraged where appropriate. Planning officers and enforcement officers are also able to identify empty properties which are, as
     a result of their condition, detrimental to the surrounding amenities. The local planning authority has the power under Section 215
     of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, to require the owner to take necessary steps to improve the condition and
     appearance of properties.
  6. Legal Services - Legal officers assist Council officers in tracing ownership for land and buildings. These established procedures
     are useful in tackling empty homes. Other legal queries surrounding empty homes are referred to the legal team.
  7. Registered Social Landlords (RSLs) - The Council’s housing stock of approximately 1250 homes is managed by Spire Homes.
     Other RSLs own over 240+ properties in Rutland. RSLs need to keep the length of time their properties are empty to a minimum;
     their performance is measured by the Housing Corporation. They may assist in any possible Private Sector Leasing Schemes that
     are set up.

				
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