Hundreds of long-term empty homes are now back in use thanks to help from Bolton Council’s Empty Homes team.
The team works with landlords and owners and since March 2017, 318 long term empty properties are now occupied again.
And during national Empty Homes Week, which runs from October 16 to October 20, the council wants more landlords and property owners to use their services.
Empty property owners are invited to a free drop-in advice session at Castle Hill Centre, Castleton Street, BL2 2JW on Thursday, October 19 between 2pm and 4pm.
The council also recently unveiled it has joined forces with Bolton College and the University of Bolton on a pilot project to transform a rundown, empty house on Victoria Grove.
The house has been empty since 1993 according to council tax records and the authority is currently in negotiations to buy the property and both institutions are identifying students to take part in the refurbishment.
Bolton Council’s Executive Cabinet Member for Environmental Services, Cllr Nick Peel, said the council was committed to getting Bolton’s empty homes back into use for people who need them.
“We have a team who provide help and support to owners of properties and hundreds of homes are now occupied thanks to their intervention.
“There are lots of reasons why houses can be empty and some of it is just the normal churn of the housing market. The actual number of properties that have been empty for longer than two years is around 450 and the owners have to pay 150 per cent council tax.
“We would always rather work with the owner to get homes back into use for people who need them.”
He added: “Sometimes owners are struggling and our team is here to help. Take the example of a long term empty house on Buckley Lane where the owners have worked with the council and taken up the offer of an interest free loan. The house has now been fully refurbished up to a good standard and will make a great family home, as shown by the interest from lots of potential tenants.
Anyone who owns a property, which has been empty for more than six months and meets the eligibility criteria, can apply for an interest free loan of up to £20K from the council to bring their property up to a suitable standard for rental.
Cllr Peel said: “We always try and work with landlords first, but if after repeated contact they don’t take action and the empty property is causing an issue, we will look to use our enforcement powers. A recent example on Halliwell Road involved the council using its powers to require external improvements to the property. The owner has since carried out the work required, along with additional improvements which have really enhanced the external appearance.”
The council can also help owners through its online Matchmaker Scheme which matches empty home owners with potential buyers.
The team also offers advice about how to rent out properties through the Bolton Landlord Accreditation Scheme.
Landlords or homeowners can find out more about the help available by contacting the Empty Homes Team on 01204 338912 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.