Empty homes cost council half a million in lost rent

St Helen's Road, Elm Grove, Brighton (first Council Housing in Brighton)  licenced by Creative Commons by Hassocks 5489
St Helen's Road, Elm Grove, Brighton (first Council Housing in Brighton) licenced by Creative Commons by Hassocks 5489

More than £535,000 was lost in rent due to empty council homes in Brighton and Hove in 2017-18.

Earlier this week, the Brighton & Hove Independent reported that figure was almost £1 million in six months – we are happy to correct this.

A total of 37 homes were empty for six weeks or more as of Sunday April 1, with two houses having been empty for more than 800 days.

One, in Moulsecoomb and Bevendean, was originally put forward for extension but the council refurbished it as there was reduced demand for five-bedroom homes.

The other, a house in Portslade had a number of issues before work started to make it wheelchair-accessible.

Another long-term unlet house in Hanover and Elm Grove stood empty for 518 days because of major works, losing £7,800 rent.

Green ward councillor Dick Page said that he was aware of one long-term empty house in Whichelo Place and a flat above a shop in Elm Grove.

He said: “I am afraid council excuses why they don’t take enforcement action have led me to rename the empty properties team the ’empty promises team’.

“I have asked the chair of the housing committee, Councillor Meadows, but have still had no results after three years.”

Fellow Hanover and Elm Grove councillor David Gibson, the Green spokesman on the Brighton and Hove City Council Housing and New Homes Committee, said: “I am also deeply concerned about privately owned homes too, which are left empty for much longer and monitoring is much harder.

“I am currently pressing to bring back into use a couple of properties. One has been reported empty for over 10 years and the other at least four years.”

The council’s biggest financial loss was with 13 homes at Brooke Mead which were empty for 79 days, losing £17,900.

A house undergoing major works and two flats in South Portslade were empty for between 49 and 896 days, losing £15,400.

The third biggest loss was £12,600 in Hangleton and Knoll due to two houses undergoing major work and another undergoing an extension, remaining empty from between 77 and 448 days.

Conservative Councillor Dawn Barnett is frustrated that a house in Godwin Road on the Knoll Estate has been empty for more than a year.

She said: “There is now a notice in the window saying it is being used as a store while they work on the Knoll estate.

“They are supposed to extending it to make an extra bedroom. Residents are saying it is such a waste of a home when many people are homeless.”

One of the long-term empty homes in Hangleton and Knoll is being adapted to house a family on the Knoll Estate who need an adapted bathroom for a disabled person.

Long-term empty homes cost the council £91,800 in lost rent while unoccupied.

Ododo Dafe, head of income, involvement and improvement, said that longer-term issues with homes may include removing asbestos or dealing with damp.

She said: “We have had a few problems with the extension programme. Some properties when empty had a few issues with drawings and plans.

“We cannot envisage doing extension work that would take as long as this.”

The planning process for extensions to council homes can only start once a home is empty.

For the year 2017-18 the council exceeded its target of letting homes that do  not require major works within 21 days.

Correction: The total lost rent due to empty homes in the financial year 2017-18 was £537,000 for the entire period, not just the final quarter.

The £91,800 in lost rent due to long-term empty homes was for the duration that they remained unoccupied.