Council forces sale of four empty homes under a drive to get vacant houses re-occupied

Barnsley currently has more the 1,600 homes which are unoccupied with the council now working to get as many as possible back into use – including measures which has seen four forced sales in the last year.

Sunday, 17th February 2019, 5:28 pm
Updated Sunday, 17th February 2019, 5:32 pm
Neglected: An empty house in Goldthorpe which became the focus of council attention

Action has been taken to force owners to sell two properties in Goldthorpe and two others in the town centre area as a result of long-term neglect.

That action is complex and a last resort, with the council preferring instead to work with home owners to try to instigate steps which see the houses – which could contribute towards alleviating a shortage of homes – brought back into use.

The council has a range of measures available to assist those who own properties, often as a result of inheritance, but are unsure of what to do next.

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That ranges from advice to the provision of interest free loans and even an agreement with a housing charity, which will take empty homes on a rent them out for a decade before returning them, in good condition, to the owner.

Empty housing officer Amy Forster said one difficulty was that houses vacated through the occupant’s death did qualify for council tax until the new owners applied for probate, meaning that was an expense empty houses often did not incur.

She told councillor in Penistone that one home in Shafton had been empty for more than 12 years, with executors living in London and oversees. The council had gone to the trouble of hand-delivering a letter to the capital, without success in moving the case forwards.

The Penistone district currently accounts for around 10 per cent of the borough’s empty homes, though with 17 that have not been used for more than a decade the area has more than its statistical share of homes unoccupied in the long term.