Sunderland City Council intends to force the sales of privately owned houses that have been abandoned or left to decay. 

Using powers granted it under land and property laws, the council could use such sales to recover money it is owed due to unpaid council taxes and emergency repairs it has been forced to carry out.  

Buyers will only be allowed to purchase the houses if they agree to renovate them within a certain period of time. 

Once costs and debts are paid, any money left over from the sales would be given to the houses’ former owners. 

As well as improving neighbourhoods, the council believes that using its Enforced Sale of Property (ESP) powers would help tackle problems such as fly-tipping, vandalism, arson, vermin issues and anti-social behaviour. 

Sunderland City Council also feels the use of such powers would result in better looking streets and could provide more homes for elderly and vulnerable people. 

The council’s cabinet member for city services, Michael Mordey, said, “I think this will be another tool in the council’s arsenal for tackling any properties that are empty.” 

Mr Mordey, who is a Hendon ward member, added, “It could help and have a significant impact on the Hendon ward, which has more empty properties than other wards.”

“I recommend the use of these powers and I have a long list of empty properties in Hendon to pass on.”

photo courtesy of Mattwi1sOn, from Flickr Creative Commons
Any buyers would have to agree to renovate the properties (photo courtesy of Mattwi1sOn, from Flickr Creative Commons)

The council says it will use its Enforced Sale of Property powers on houses that have been abandoned for at least two years or are the cause of a significant number of complaints. 

For the ESP powers to be used, the council would have to think a house is likely to decay further and be expensive for the council to maintain. The owner would have to owe the council at least £500 for repair work undertaken on the property.

The council hopes that using the ESP powers will be a better way of recovering debt than other methods such as demolition or enforcing management orders. If the council cannot sell the properties through the ESP scheme, they may look at other ways of making sales, such as via auctions.

Sunderland City Council will assess each property on a case-by-case basis. If the property owners are disadvantaged or vulnerable, the council may refer them to the appropriate agencies rather than using ESP powers.

(Featured image courtesy of John Lord, from Flickr Creative Commons)


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