It benefits nobody to have empty homes. They can cost their owners up to £7,000 a year and lead to problems like dereliction, crime, pests, and rubbish dumping. This is not what the vast majority of landlords want. Half of owners of empty properties say they would like help returning their empty property to use.
Newcastle Council does a great job of reducing empty homes. They have worked hard to make sure the number of ‘empties’ in Newcastle is below the national average, but a home improvement agency for landlords could help reduce the figure further.
Newcastle Council already operates Helping Hand, an agency for people on low incomes that gives support and advice on making repairs or essential improvements to homes. They do a valuable job. But I’d like to see advice given to landlords to deal with their specific needs, especially about how to renovate empty homes.
Home improvement agencies aimed at landlords are funded by councils across the country, including Durham. They offer a range of services that include
– Helping the owner access grants, loans or other types of finance
– Advice about the type of renovations required on often derelict properties – Assistance finding trustworthy contractors
– Training courses for landlords to educate them about rights and responsibilities
– Liaising with tenants and landlords in order to settle disputes
– Advice and support about how landlords can manage property standards
– Assisting in finding tenants once refurbishment happens
A specialised home improvement agency would also help build a positive relationship between landlords and the Council. A close working relationship that provides valuable, trustworthy advice, and leads to open, honest communication is the best foundation to tackle empty homes.
Newcastle Council should create a home improvement agency to make sure landlords get the help which they want and need. The organisation would give them easy access to the knowledge and skills needed to be a responsible, successful property owner.
If you’re as passionate as I am about the benefits of this scheme, please help by writing to your local councillor – their contact details can be found here: