Empty homes in Charlbury

Rod Evans
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Wed 20 Mar, 15:15

Not 'Strictly Charlbury' but to put this in a wider context, the Observer recently reported (so it must be true!) that more than £100bn of property in England & Wales is secretly owned with at least 87,000 properties 'owned by anonymous companies registered in tax havens'.  Forty per cent of the properties are in London - which means 60% aren't....

Liz Leffman
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Wed 20 Mar, 10:50 (last edited on Wed 20 Mar, 10:55)

Vicky, you have hit the nail on the head - we do know who owns the house, and their situation, but personal circumstances are not something for discussion on this forum and I suggest that with your wise words this discussion is now closed down.

vicky burton
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Wed 20 Mar, 10:24

I don't know this house or any of the people involved. What I do know, is that there really aren't very many people in this world that are actually inactive due to pure malice or lack of care. May I dare suggest that the legal owner of this property may not be ignoring all contact regarding it, due to incapacity or the contact details are not up to date? 

Perhaps somebody actually knows this person and could ascertain what the reality of this particular situation is. Maybe the  owner is not aware of how much the home has deteriorated? 

Maggie Watts
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Tue 19 Mar, 21:31

I apologise for my frustration but very little has been done regarding the situation on The Green and there has been no progress for many months. There appears no solution or even any action towards any hope of one, so discussing other irrelevant schemes is very unhelpful for those of us directly affected over many years.

Matthew Greenfield
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Tue 19 Mar, 21:18

I think you are being a bit harsh Maggie. Liz (Leffman) was just mentioning that there is a scheme to help with unoccupied/neglected houses which unfortunately cannot be used in this case. I found her post of interest and not in the least political.

Maggie Watts
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Tue 19 Mar, 20:45

Liz, the house on The Green has a particular problem as there has been no co-operation from the owner. It is therefore irrelevant to mention in your reply a scheme which is not applicable to the specific situation I asked you about. You appear to be simply trying to curry favour with the electorate.

Liz Leffman
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Mon 18 Mar, 08:50 (last edited on Mon 18 Mar, 08:55)

Maggie, I am not sure what you mean?  I provided you with the information that you asked for,  about what WODC has done about the house on The Green. I didn't mention any schemes other than the new one set up by WODC to take over empty houses.  As this was put in place by the Conservative administration, and I agree with what they are doing in this case, I don't think this is about my politics!

Maggie Watts
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Mon 18 Mar, 00:04

Liz Leffman, Regarding the abandoned house on The Green. It is really unhelpful to mention schemes that are not applicable when you reply. This is not a matter for your politics.

Jim Holah
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Sat 16 Mar, 15:42

Could always try this......LA power to take empty homes into management. 

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/empty-dwelling-management-orders-guidance

Liz Reason
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Sat 16 Mar, 12:51

"It requires the owner's consent or at least co-operation".  Doomed to fail then.  If the owner were willing to cooperate, we wouldn't be in the situation we're in now. Legal action needs to be taken against him and a court order used to resolve this situation.

Liz Reason
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Fri 15 Mar, 19:26

I've contacted WODC about the house on The Green.  I have been promised a response.  I've said that I will carry on pursuing this until the problem is solved.  I welcome all offers of help.

Liz Leffman
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Wed 13 Mar, 18:59 (last edited on Wed 13 Mar, 19:08)

WODC enforcement officers have been involved in trying to get the owner to tidy up the garden, particularly trees whose roots are causing problems for neighbours, and sort out the house, but  to little effect because the owner ignores any attempt to contact him. WODC hav recently set up a scheme for taking over empty houses from owners, refurbishing and renting them, but this was only intoduced a couple of moths ago and it requires the owner's consent or at least co-operation.

Maggie Watts
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Wed 13 Mar, 17:32

Hi Liz, please could you provide actual details of what practical attempts have been made to “rectify” the situation with the empty house on The Green. 

Liz Leffman
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Wed 13 Mar, 15:00

WODC are aware of the need to use empty homes as art of the newly adopted homelessness strategy - but as has rightly been pointed out there is a big difference between second homes that are not often used, or holiday homes, and genuinely empty properties.  WODC has a list of those homes that are genuinely unoccupied. The one on The Green has been empty for years and there have been various attempts to get that rectified.

Rachael Gibbon
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Wed 13 Mar, 10:12 (last edited on Wed 13 Mar, 10:14)

 Thanks, Liz for the informative post and for pledging to raise this with the WODC. In order for Charlbury to continue to be a genuine, thriving and dynamic community it is important that it be a diverse and inclusive one and in order for that to be the case it needs to be a fairer one. My own observation, as a relatively recent incomer, is that the needs of the wider community seem to be being compromised in favour of turning Charlbury into a glossy, sanitised Country Life idyll of a Cotswold town getaway rather than a real place for real people. 

Huw, I'd suggest that as a society we should be more concerned about the 'marginalization' of those that do not own a single home, or even those who do not have a home at all, rather than those who own two or more. I am not against second homes in principle, or for that matter second home owners, but I do believe that good social planning with an eye to social justice is essential in ensuring the future longevity of rural communities like Charlbury. 

Alice Brander
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Wed 13 Mar, 08:47

I think we should take care not to confuse second homes with empty homes.  There have been many reports of houses being bought by overseas investors and kept empty.  Particularly in the last 2.5 years since the devaluation of the £ has resulted in houses appearing 10-15% cheaper.  They are investments and they are being built as investments not to solve the housing crisis.  A sorry state indeed.   

Huw Mallins-Brown
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Tue 12 Mar, 23:27 (last edited on Tue 12 Mar, 23:31)

A long (informative) post by Liz.  Whilst legislation exists to deal with “abandoned” homes, it is an expensive and lengthy process for any Local Authority to progress. I am not aware of more than three properties in Charlbury that could be deemed as abandoned, Indeed  one of those is owned by a Lady who is terminally ill and in no position to rectify the siuation. Whilst people might not like the concept of second homes, it does not necessarilly mean that the owners don’t care about the community or contribute to it.  I would much prefer to read posts about Charlbury being a caring and inclusive community, not one that seeks to marginalise those who own second homes.

Alice Brander
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Tue 12 Mar, 21:46

The OCSI data updated in 2018 tells us that 5.6% of housing in Charlbury & Finstock is vacant compared with 4.2% in Oxfordshire and 4.3% in England.  I see that West Oxfordshire already charge owners of empty properties 150% of the council tax charge if a property is left empty for over 2 years.  But if you've paid a few million £'s for a house the sanction of paying £5,358 a year for council tax probably feels like a minor irritation.

stephen cavell
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Tue 12 Mar, 09:59

It is the same in many parts of the country. I grew up in the Lizard/Lands End area of Cornwall very close to Helford Village which in the 1950's was pretty well locally owned.  To day I am told that only 3/4 true locals live there and fewer than 20% of the houses are occupied thro' the year.  St Ives - another town I knew well I understand has introduced some kind of local legislation to prevent "them emmots from up-country" from having second homes and leaving them empty for months at a time.

What does it do to Council Tax collection?

Liz Reason
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Tue 12 Mar, 08:51 (last edited on Tue 12 Mar, 09:25)

I'm going to contact WODC this morning.  My attention has been brought yet again to a house on The Green which has been allowed to deteriorate into a dangerous condition.

Two contradictory pieces of info on the net.

"The Empty Homes Premium
The Local Government Finance Act 2012 received Royal Assent on 31 October 2012 and gives local authorities from April 2013 the option to charge an empty homes premium on the council tax payable on unfurnished properties that have been unoccupied for two years or more.  The receipts collected will be used to bring homes back into use.  Individual authorities are able to design their own schemes for applying the Premium in their  local area including the circumstances in which it may be charged and the level at which it will be set.  The government has the power to determine the circumstances in which the Premium is not applied."

"Measures to equip councils with powers to bring thousands of long-term empty homes back into use will be debated in Parliament today (23 April 2018). The new legislation will allow councils to charge double the rate of Council Tax on homes left empty for years. Local authorities can currently levy a 50% premium. Whilst the number of homes empty for 6 months or longer remains substantially lower than when records began in 2004, councils will be handed powers to levy additional charges on homes standing empty for 2 years or more."

So apparently legislation passed in 2012 is proposed as new legislation in 2018.

Other powers apparently available - why doesn't WODC use them?

Unsightly land and property affecting the amenity of the area

Section 215 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 provides the local planning authority with the power to take steps requiring land to be cleaned up when its condition adversely affects the amenity of the area.

Dangerous or dilapidated buildings and poor property conditions

The city council have various pieces of legislation which provide legal powers to deal with privately owned empty properties that are causing a hazard or a nuisance. Ultimately, if the owner fails to carry out the required works then the city council can either carry out the works in default or prosecute the owner, or do both. In these events a land charge will be placed on the property to recoup the costs.

Unsecured and opened to access

The Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982 s.29 gives the local authority the power to undertake works in connection with the building for the purpose of preventing unauthorised entry to it, or for the purpose of preventing it becoming a danger to public health.

Acquisition of land and property

Enforced sales process - This is a process by which the council brings about the sale of a privately owned house that has incurred debts towards the council.

Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMOs) were introduced under the Housing Act 2004. The local authority applies to take over the management of the property, carrying out works if required and then renting out the property. Management and any refurbishment costs can be reclaimed from the rental income with any outstanding balance going to the owner.

A compulsory purchase order is used as a last resort where all other routes have failed. It allows local authorities the power to take over land, houses or other properties to increase the number of houses available or improve the quality of the housing stock. The main uses of this power are to obtain land for housing. This includes bringing empty properties back into use as homes, and improving substandard ones.

Liz Leffman
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Mon 11 Mar, 19:01

I have noticed a big change in th town since I started knocking on doors back in 2005.  Then, there were virtually no second homes in the town, but now there are a lot more, many of which are empty for most of the year.

Charlie M
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Mon 11 Mar, 18:11

I remember when I moved to Charlbury in 1995 that there were two empty houses more or less opposite The Three Horseshoes (but a bit further up the hill). They really looked almost verging on derelict, and seeing them like that used to make me sad. In fact I mentioned it at the Town Meeting ... there was a rumour that the owner(s) lived in the USA. I don't know what happened - maybe someone had a word with someone - but it seemed to stir something, and within six months or so those two houses had been done up and loved again! 

Katie Russell
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Mon 11 Mar, 17:10

Not just Charlbury, but here in Fawler too. A beautiful 4-bed family home with separate garage and studio, bought and extensively renovated as an investment, left empty in the long-term- presumably the owners don't need the rental income. Very sad when demand for homes is so high.

Lin Knapman
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Mon 11 Mar, 16:51

It is great pity because my artist husband and I are looking for a property with minimum of 3 bedrooms plus a space for him to work would be a bonus, we need araond 2300sq ft and a garage, we have visited the town and local villages on several occasions and love the friendly feel, it is our desire to take part in an active community. Our current property has just been launched on the market.

If anyone is considering selling in the near future we would very much like to hear from you. We will of course respect your privacy in all matters.

Contact :- Lin & Chris 01295 788840 linckchick@gmail.com

vicky burton
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Mon 11 Mar, 15:09

I didn't know about this in Charlbury. I'd noticed the trend in Witney's West End.  Presumably people/institutions buy such properties as a long term investment? You'd think it was high time there was legislation against owning unoccupied property long-term unless you are renovating it. Just immoral.

Matthew Greenfield
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Sun 10 Mar, 20:46

Wrong and weird 

Liz Reason
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Sun 10 Mar, 18:05

I do wonder at the way in which houses in Charlbury can be bought - at great expense - and then left empty for years.  It feels wrong.

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