The owner of a neglected house which has stood empty for nine years stands to lose out on £150,000 unless they answer the council’s letters.
The three-bedroom Victorian terraced property in Albion Street, Aylesbury, is in a ’very poor state of repair’ according to a report from Aylesbury Vale District Council, and now the authority is taking action after all correspondence with the owner has fallen into a ‘black hole’.
The derelict house has been engulfed by an overgrown tree in the front garden – complete with an abandoned plastic garden chair – and the porch is choked with years’ worth of junk mail.
Inside, the piles of unopened post continues in the hallway and the plaster and wallpaper is peeling off the walls in virtually every room.
There are abandoned chairs in the living room which once offered a comfy resting place, and beds remain in the upstairs bedrooms – not slept in for nearly a decade.
Now Aylesbury Vale District Council is planning to ‘buy’ the house under a Compulsory Purchase Order after being repeatedly ignored by the owner.
Martyn Chuter, AVDC’s environmental health and private sector housing manager, said: “We look at all long term empty homes because of, one, the long term impact on the neighbourhood and, two, it’s financially important to keep the numbers down because the empty houses have a negative impact on that the new homes bonus.”
important to keep the numbers down because the empty houses have a negative impact on our grant from government.”
In 2006, the council had around 535 homes on its books that has been empty for six months or more, but now this number has been almost halved and stands at approximately 265.
Mr Chuter, who has had a substantial career in the private housing sector, revealed that the owner of the delapidated house still lives in Aylesbury.
He said: “We have written to them persistently and worked but all the correspondence has fallen into a black hole. We have been driven to this more radical option because we want to see a result. CPOs are rare and quite unusual. They are a last resort.”
In the lead up to the CPO being launched, the council served several notices and obtained a warrant from the magistrates’ court to get into the property in order to inspect it.
After being repeatedly ignored by the owner, it is now stepping up its involvement.
Mr Chuter said: “CPOs are an extreme course of action and are not used lightly.”
He says the council have developed a number of tools when working in partnership with the owners of houses which have stood empty for more than six months.
He said: “There are many different ways we can get involved – we can take ownership, do it up and lease it to a housing association for a period of time before giving it back to the owners in a rentable condition as well as auctioning it and selling it on the open market.
“Sometimes owners can be serial procrastinators, when they can’t decide what to do with the house, so it sits there and becomes more run down.”
The council is yet to decide whether to renovate the house (which will cost £50,000) and rent it or to sell it. The owner still has an opportunity to come forward and claim compensation of the market value of the house – which is £150,000 in its current state – in the next six years.But if they fail to do so, the council will no longer have to cough up and Mr Chuter says the money would be used for other purposes.
Neighbours living opposite the house were pleased to hear about the progress, with one recalling a fire in the overgrown front garden last summer.
He said: “I heard a crackling, and when I looked out of the window the garden was on fire. It’s always preferable to have house that’s occupied.”
The council hopes to move forward with the CPO in the coming months, but despite this Mr Chuter says there is still time for the owner to come forward and work with the council.