Issues with an empty or a derelict property

The Council receives many queries relating to empty properties. Many of these are about empty properties being open to unauthorised access resulting in criminal damage, vandalism or rubbish dumped in their yards or gardens. As part of our plan to get empty properties back into use, we have appointed an Empty Property Officer to help deal with the issues presented by empty and derelict properties and to encourage their owners to bring these much-needed homes back in to occupation.

What can the Council do about an empty property?

There are many ways the council can deal with empty properties. We target long-term vacant properties and their owners are encouraged to take action to return them to residential use. Occasionally we need to take enforcement action against owners who continue to leave their property empty, where we have received complaints about public health issues, such as a large build up of rubbish or if the property is open to unauthorised access.

In certain circumstances we can:

  • Work with owners so that they can voluntarily fix the problem, or
  • Serve notice on owners whose property is causing statutory public nuisance where they have failed to willingly remedy the cause, or
  • Carry out the works 'in default', should an owner refuse to comply with the terms of the Notice within the timescale given.
  • Issue a compulsory purchase order.

We can offer landlords and owners:

  • Free advice and assistance.
  • Financial assistance for repairs to bring properties back into use (only in certain circumstances).
  • An introduction to the Gateshead Private Landlords' Association to benefit from its membership.

Please see the Icon for pdf Empty property and enforcement booklet [78.62KB] for more information on what we can do to help bring empty properties back into use.

What can I do if the empty property is physically affecting my property?

If your property is suffering from a physical problem such as dampness or dry rot which has its origins in the disrepair of an adjoining empty property it may constitute a Private Nuisance.

The Environmental Protection Act 1990 allows individuals or groups to bring their own action forward as a private nuisance. This means that a private property owner could take a civil action against another owner whose property is affecting their property and where a private nuisance can be demonstrated. The test for this is the effect that the situation has on you. It must either be
prejudicial to the health of you or others living in your property, or a nuisance in that it interferes with your enjoyment of your property. It is not sufficient, for example, if you are disturbed by something which is merely an eyesore.

The common sense test which the Court applies is "Is the activity or situation unreasonable or excessive or both in the opinion of the ordinary man in the street; not somebody who may be oversensitive or in unique circumstances?" If you consider the answer to be "yes", then you could proceed with reasonable confidence.

This action should not be taken lightly and may lead to poor relations with your neighbouring owner. More information on this is contained within the Icon for pdf Empty property causing you problems [83.27KB].

How can I report an empty property?

If you know of a property standing empty and causing problems, whether it is council or privately owned, then contact us using the details below for advice and assistance.

Is it illegal to leave my property empty?

It is not illegal to keep a property empty but it can be an expensive option. You must make sure that it remains secure and well-maintained during the vacancy, that the gardens are kept neat and tidy and that you pay your council tax and other utility demands.

To prevent the property falling into disrepair and becoming a target for vandalism you should, at least:

  • Arrange adequate insurance
  • Arrange for the gardens to be maintained to a minimum standard
  • Create the appearance that it is occupied, for example, by hanging curtains
  • Have it inspected at regular intervals and undertake any repairs or damage that may occur
  • Consider giving a neighbour a telephone number so that someone can be contacted in an emergency

Documents

Useful links

Contact us

Chris Geddes, Empty Property Officer
Economic and Housing Growth
Policy, Economic Growth and Transformation
Civic Centre
Gateshead
NE8 1HH

0191 433 3376
chrisgeddes@gateshead.gov.uk

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