Freedom of Information Request - Long Term Empty Properties

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Ashleigh Niamir

Dear Runnymede Borough Council,

I am writing to you to request the following information under the Freedom of Information Act:

1) Can the council confirm their current number of Long Term Empty Properties as of the 8th May (those domestic properties which have been empty for six months or older)
2) What work is the council currently undertaking or planning to undertake around reducing their long term empty properties in 2019?
3) During 2018 did you undertake any work around reducing your Long Term Empty Properties. If you did was this done using internal resource or a third party?
4) If yes is the answer to question three, did the council review every single long term property
5) Does the reduction of empty homes in the council area form part of your Housing strategy?
6) Does the council have a budget in place to help support the reduction of empty properties?
7) How much did the council spend on temporary accommodation during 2018?
8) Does the council offer financial support /loans to Long Term Empty property owners to help them bring properties back into use?

Yours faithfully,

Ashleigh

FOI, Runnymede Borough Council

Dear Ashleigh

This is to acknowledge receipt of your freedom of information request, reference 19.05.20 received on 15 May 2019

Your request is being dealt with under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and will be answered within twenty working days.

Regards

FOI Officer | Runnymede Borough Council

[email address] www.runnymede.gov.uk

We are committed to being transparent about why and how we collect and use your personal data. Please see our Privacy Statement for further details.

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FOI, Runnymede Borough Council

Dear Ashleigh

 

In response to your FOI:-

 

1)         Can the council confirm their current number of Long Term Empty
Properties as of the 8th May (those domestic properties which have been
empty for six months or older)

 

We currently have 561 properties on our records that have been empty for
more than 6 months, though we are unable to split that figure between
Private Sector and Social Housing.

 

The Local Authority Housing Statistics will soon be published on this
web-site
:[1]https://www.gov.uk/government/statistica...
to provide the specific number of social housing properties empty.

 

As this information is intended for future publication, we are not obliged
to disclose it prematurely as it falls under the exemption at FOIA Section
22 “Information intended for future publication”.

 

2)         What work is the council currently undertaking or planning to
undertake around reducing their long term empty properties in 2019?

 

Action is taken where necessary. While there is no specific budget when
works are required, they will be funded from the most appropriate HRA
Repairs budget. This has funded  the repair of two flooded houses in
Addlestone and the refurbishment of a property in Egham.

 

 

3)         During 2018 did you undertake any work around reducing your
Long Term Empty Properties. If you did was this done using internal
resource or a third party?

 

 

From time to time issues arise that mean some properties stay empty for
longer than we may want and these can arise from unexpected incidents, for
example flooding and refurbishment.

 

It would depend on how significant the works required were for a Council
owned property as to whether we would use an internal/external resource.
We do have third party contractors to repair our short term empty (or
“void”) properties whilst they are being prepared to be re-let to the next
tenant.

 

Our Head of Social Housing had a success with a long term empty privately
held property in our borough when she was able to persuade the owners to
sell us the property for use as Temporary Accommodation. We are planning
to update this website link to include information on how to contact us
about bringing an Empty Property back into use to see if we can replicate
this success:
[2]https://www.runnymede.gov.uk/article/138...

 

In terms of private properties, we advertise the fact that they will be
subject to a higher Council Tax banding if empty for more than two years
as per the above link.

 

4)         If yes is the answer to question three, did the council review
every single long term property

 

All Void Social Housing properties are regularly reviewed to check whether
they are fit for new tenants yet. The complexity of the changes needed
whilst empty can dictate how long these properties are empty for, taking
into consideration the needs of the next tenant, the state of repair the
property has been left in by the previous tenant and whether the property
currently meets the Decent Homes Standard (2010).

 

5)         Does the reduction of empty homes in the council area form part
of your Housing strategy?

 

Please see the Housing Business Plan for social housing plans to reduce
overall void times in this financial year:
[3]https://www.runnymede.gov.uk/article/146...

 

In terms of Private Sector work, we will continue to work with colleagues
in Council Tax to reduce empty properties within the borough, and as per
our answer to Q3, we are looking at advertising the option of bringing
empty properties back into use as social housing.

 

6)         Does the council have a budget in place to help support the
reduction of empty properties?

 

There is no specific budget to do up dilapidated properties as it is the
intention of the Housing Business Centre plans that all HRA properties are
to be kept fit for use within reasonable timescales.

 

7)         How much did the council spend on temporary accommodation
during 2018?

 

During the financial year 2018/19 Runnymede BC spent £49,059 on Bed &
Breakfast accommodation.

 

8)         Does the council offer financial support / loans to Long Term
Empty property owners to help them bring properties back into use?

 

The Council does have a small provision for refurbishing Private Sector
housing.

 

 

I hope that this information is sufficient for your purposes. 

 

If you are not satisfied with our response, we can offer you an internal
review and the link below takes you to our Complaints and Compliments
home-page within which there is a link to our Freedom of Information
internal review process

 

https://www.runnymede.gov.uk/article/151...

 

If subsequently you are not satisfied with the Council’s decision you may
apply to the Information Commissioner for a decision.  Generally, the ICO
cannot make a decision unless you have exhausted the complaints procedure
provided by the Council.

 

The Information Commissioner can be contacted at the following address:

 

The Information Commissioner

Wycliffe House

Water Lane

Wilmslow

SK9 5AS

 

https://ico.org.uk/

 

Regards

 

FOI Officer | Runnymede Borough Council

 

[email address]        www.runnymede.gov.uk       

 

We are committed to being transparent about why and how we collect and use
your personal data. Please see our Privacy Statement for further details.

 

 

 

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