Properties are left empty for a variety of reasons but they can be the source of much misery to neighbours who have to live nearby. It is estimated that the home next door to an empty property can be devalued by 10%.
There is also the worry of nuisance, vermin, arson, vandalism and anti-social behaviour.
For the owner, an empty property is a wasted resource and can be costly in terms of increased insurance, increased council tax premiums, property fraud, emergency repairs and break-ins.
We are committed to reducing the number of empty properties in the district and can offer financial help in certain circumstances. It is recognised that a stumbling block can be that the empty property is in disrepair and cannot be lived in, let or easily sold in its condition.
We can offer the following schemes:
The Empty Homes Repayable Assistance offers up to £10,000 if there is an empty property that you intend to live in yourself, but is in poor condition. The money is repaid when you eventually sell the property.
The PLACE Loan offers up to £25,000 if you have a property that you would like to have renovated in order that you can sell or rent it out. This is an interest free loan and is paid back within two years in the case of a loan to sell, or five years in the case of the loan to let.
We always prefer to work with owners in a constructive way. We have certain enforcement powers that we may use to ensure an empty property is brought back to use, particularly if it has been empty a long time and is problematic to the local community.
Help for empty home owners
Councillor Syd Stavrou, Housing Portfolio Holder, said: “As a council we are fully committed to bringing empty properties back into use and are looking to help owners in every way we can. However where all other measures have failed, we are prepared to take enforcement action as a last resort.”
She added: ”If you are aware of an empty property or own one yourselves, please let us know. We will need the address and any other information you think might be helpful. We will do our best to contact the owner and work with them to bring the property back to use, and all calls are treated in confidence.”
Have your say about the way Epping Forest District Council prioritises housing applications and allocates affordable housing. We want your views on the draft revised Housing Allocations Scheme before 2 January 2018.
The current scheme was last reviewed in 2015. It is a document which sets out clear policies on how the council prioritises applications and allocates affordable housing to people on the housing register. The housing register is a list of homeseekers who are waiting to be offered a council or housing association property.
We are required by law to have a Housing Allocations Scheme for:
deciding priorities and the procedure to be followed in selecting homeseekers for council accommodation
nominating homeseekers for housing association accommodation
Alongside members of the public, we are also consulting with
The council’s Tenant and Leaseholders Panel
Town and Parish Councils
Partner agencies with an interest in the scheme
Every private register provider of social housing with which it has nomination arrangements
Have your say
Housing Portfolio Holder, Councillor Syd Stavrou said: ”We are consulting with a variety of associated bodies and partner agencies, as well as our residents. We want to hear your views, so please make sure you complete the consultation.”
”If you would like to comment on the draft revised Housing Allocations Scheme 2018, please fill out the online form. Responses are needed by 2 January 2018. The Council’s Cabinet will consider the results of the consultation and when it has been approved, the new scheme and policy will come into force on 1 July 2018.”
Epping Forest District Council welcomed the first tenants into John Scott Court, Waltham Abbey this week.
50 guests gathered for the official opening ceremony, an event which marked the completion of Phase One of the Council’s House-building Programme to provide 23 new affordable rented homes in Waltham Abbey.
The development is named after former District Health and Housing Officer and Joint Chief Executive John Scott as a tribute to decades of service to the Council and the local community.
Guests, including John Scott, MP Eleanor Laing and local councillors joined council officers, contractors and tenants to open the nine newly built homes at John Scott Court, all of which are being let to local residents in need of housing.
Energy efficient homes
The brand new energy-efficient homes, which are built to Lifetime Homes Standards, are built on a formerly under-used garage site.
Resident delighted with her new home
One new tenant, who was delighted to move into her new home said: “I moved in last week and am so happy in my new home. I am very impressed with the size of the rooms, my son has lots of space for his toys. I’ve shown lots of friends and neighbours around my flat and they all want to live here!”
Programme of over 300 homes
The new homes at John Scott Court are the latest completions in the district-wide programme of over 300 new affordable homes to be built during the next 10 years. They will shortly be followed by the completion of Phase 2 of the Programme in Burton Road, Loughton, which is on schedule to complete by March 2018.
Proud to work with residents
Councillor Syd Stavrou, Portfolio Holder for Housing attended the official opening and said: “We are committed to making the best use of our housing stock and are continuing to build new homes for people in housing need within our community. We are proud to be working with residents and partners, building more well-designed homes for affordable rent in our district”.
After the ceremony there was an opportunity to visit another new development of six houses and flats at Hockley court, Waltham Abbey.
Ms Paula Callaway of Dunmow Essex has been given a 12 month suspend sentence and 150 hours community service after being found guilty of 2 counts of Social Housing fraud.
Subletting council property
Paula Callaway became a tenant of Moat Housing housing association in 1999. The tenancy agreement required Ms Callaway to live at the property 49 Ravenoak Way Chigwell as her main home and not to sublet it without prior written permission.
In November 2011 Paula Callaway sought permission to carry out a mutual exchange with the tenant of a one bedroom flat Council property at 9 Felstead Road Loughton.
Reasons given for requesting the exchange was that Ms Callaway wished to downsize following her children leaving home. The mutual exchange was approved and took place in January 2012.
Confidential fraud hotline
Following a report to the Council’s confidential fraud hotline officers launched an investigation which revealed that Paula Callaway had purchased a three bedroom new build property and had been living in Dunmow since October 2009, whilst still claiming to be a tenant at Ravenoak Way, Chigwell.
Ms Callaway had not informed Moat Housing that she had moved out and had left her son at that property and also rented out to property to at least another five people.
The mutual exchange was therefore fraudulent and the reasons given false.
Further fraudulent activity
At trial it transpired that the tenant Ms Callaway carried out the mutual exchange with was her sister in law and the real reason for wanting to exchange was that her sister in law wanted to move to a three bedroom property.
Having then gained the tenancy of the one bedroom flat 9 Felstead Road, Callaway then illegally sublet it again. She moved in two individuals from Ravenoak Way into 9 Felstead Road, whilst still living in her own property in Great Dunmow, acting as the landlord for the 2 council owned properties.
Depriving families of a home
After a five day trial at Chelmsford Crown Court Ms. Callaway was found guilty of 2 offences relating to Social Housing fraud. Having previously pleaded guilty to the criminal offence of dishonestly subletting a property, she was sentenced with a 12 month suspended sentence on both counts of fraud, 150 hours community service and a victim surcharge.
The Judge stated: “You were given social housing once you had bought a home of your own. There is chronic shortage of social homes and you deprived a family from living in a home for six years. This went on far too long. It went on but you must know what you did was wrong.”
Fraudsters cheat us all
Finance Portfolio Holder Councillor Gagan Mohindra said: “Fraud affects everyone. Money stolen by housing tenancy fraud, council tax fraud or business rates fraud is depriving our public services of the vital resources they need.”
“Please tell us if you suspect someone is committing fraud by filling in our online form or by calling our fraud investigation team”
You can report anonymously and don’t have to give your name or contact details unless you want to.
A new Police helicopter base, anti- social behaviour in Waltham abbey and the Oakwood hill depot were among items discussed at Epping Forest District Council’s Cabinet meeting Thursday 7 September 2017.
North Weald set to become new Police helicopter base
North Weald Airfield is set to become a new base for the National Police Air Service. Three helicopters and a fixed-wing aircraft will be based at the council-owned airfield.
Asset Management Portfolio Holder Anne Grigg put forward recommendations for a 25 year lease with the helicopter service. The proposals would include a new hanger and buildings to support a range of police helicopter activities.
The Police will be joining a range of other aviation tenants including the Essex and Herts Air Ambulance which has operated very successfully from North Weald for several years. Receiving reassurances about flight lines and noise levels from members of the National Police Air Service at the meeting, councillors welcomed the report and the aspiration for continued development of aviation at North Weald.
Councillor Sam Kane was welcomed to his first Cabinet meeting as Safer, Greener and Transport Portfolio Holder by Council Leader Chris Whitbread. Councillor Kane has stepped into the role previous held by Councillor Gary Waller who recently passed away.
Councillor Kane’s first act was to deliver a strong statement regarding anti-social behaviour in Waltham Abbey.
Councillor Sam Kane’s Statement:
“Fellow Councillors will know that Epping Forest District Council is working in partnership with local residents and other organisations to improve the quality of life for everyone in and around Hillhouse on the Ninefields housing estate in Waltham Abbey.
Work has started in just the last few weeks on a brand new leisure centre. Health, housing and social facilities are coming together in a major multi-million pound investment.
The vast majority of residents in this area are the most decent and law-abiding citizens you could ever wish to meet. We also know there is an element of anti-social behaviour, a group of people who seem intent on making the lives of everyone else miserable. We are working with all our partners including Essex Police to tackle this behaviour but events in the last day or so have taken a new and very ugly twist.
Fishing line has been tied at knee height between posts and fences with the deliberate intention of tripping and hurting people. This mindless and stupid act has resulted in injury to a small child. Pictures of the serious cuts to his face have been circulated on social media.
I know this will come as a shock to you and I know every councillor would wish to send our sympathy to this innocent young child and his family.
Local residents and all right-minded people will be incensed by this latest incident. Through this meeting I want to let our residents know that we stand with them. The anti-social behaviour of the last few weeks must now stop.
A temporary dispersal order has been put in place from tonight. You will appreciate that many other things are going on behind the scenes that I cannot discuss in public.
Council staff have been working incredibly hard. Plans of action drawn up with Essex Police even before this latest event are being put into effect now. We believe we know who the perpetrators are. It saddens me to say that they are very young. We have been working with our local schools and have passed the identities of the perpetrators to Essex Police.
Enough is enough. Anti-social behaviour is a blight on our communities which must end. As the action plan goes into effect, I expect to see the situation improve significantly. I also know that you can never eliminate all crime, but with the support of my council colleagues I want to send out a clear message. We stand with all the decent and law-abiding residents of Waltham Abbey.
We will not let the few ruin the lives of the many.”
New council office and depot facilities accommodating Grounds Maintenance, Fleet Maintenance and the MoT centre opened recently at Oakwood Hill in Loughton. Latest proposals for the transfer of the Council’s Housing Repairs service to Oakwood Hill were scrutinised at Cabinet.
Proposals for additional staff car parking received particular attention. A petition opposing the use of green space opposite the new facility was delivered by Councillor Chris Roberts.
Councillors agreed the recommendations in the Cabinet report with the proviso that alternatives to the proposals of additional parking would also be investigated. Full public consultation would also take place as part of any planning application process if the proposals for parking set out in the report went forward.
Council Leader Chris Whitbread updated fellow councillors on a range of projects geared towards improving customer service including a new public customer service reception, plans for which are due to come before Cabinet by the end of the year.
Housing tenancy fraud – someone who has committed a social housing fraud by
not living in the property and leaving it empty
making a fraudulent Right to Buy application
taking (or making) a payment for a mutual exchange
living in a property after the tenant has died, where they had no right to succeed
giving false or misleading information to get the tenancy
Council Tax fraud – someone who gets a Council Tax discount by falsely
stating the property is empty
claiming they live alone
claiming they are a student
claiming Council Tax Support falsely by doing undeclared work or having capital/property in excess of the limit
Business rates fraud – a person or business liable for Business Rates who falsely
claims an exemption or relief they are not entitled to
Not a victimless crime
Cllr Mohindra said: “Fraud is not a victimless crime. Don’t think that reporting benefit fraud is wrong or underhand. If a fraudster commits fraud in the Epping Forest district we will use the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 to seize and confiscate their assets.”
We need your help
“We constantly look for fraud but no matter how hard we try, we cannot do it alone – we need your help” said Councillor Mohindra.
“Please tell us if you suspect someone is committing fraud by filling in our online form or by calling our fraud investigation team on 01992 564444.”