Bringing empty homes back into use The Council has entered a contract with Grafton Empty Homes to reduce the number of empty homes in East Staffordshire. Grafton has now been working on the Council's behalf since May 2019 to initiate contact with owners of properties that have been empty for an extended period of time. Grafton is acting within the remit of the Council's duty to address the supply of housing within the Borough. This activity is part of the Council's Housing Strategy, and Grafton will be acting on empty homes with information derived from a number of sources. The purpose of Grafton's contact with owners is to obtain information about the reason the property has been left empty, and what steps are being taken to bring the property back into use with timescales for the actions involved. Grafton have expertise with which to advise owners about ways they can bring their property back into use at a reduced cost, or sell the property. The Council's aim is to support owners to bring their empty homes back into use, but in cases where there is persistently insufficient progress, Grafton will be making recommendations to the Council about where enforcement action may be necessary. Is an empty property causing a nuisance? If an empty residential property is open to access and people are getting in and causing a nuisance or putting themselves at risk then the council can arrange for the property to be secured. If the property is causing a statutory nuisance then the council can serve a notice on the owner requiring them to rectify the situation. If defects to an empty property, outbuildings or perimeters are causing a nuisance eg a leaking roof where the water gets in through a hole on one property and emerges in a neighbouring property, the council can investigate and take action. If you think either of these things is happening at a particular property please call the Environmental Health Team to discuss the situation, telephone (01283) 508578. If the hedge at an empty home is obstructing the pavement or road you can report this to Staffordshire County Council's Highways Team on 0300 111 8000. If overgrown gardens are causing other sorts of nuisance the Council’s Enforcement Team may be able to investigate and possibly take action. Call (01283) 508480. Property standards All housing should be free of Category 1 hazards under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS). We can inspect properties for the presence of hazards and take action where hazards are found. Our approach to enforcement is set out in the Housing Enforcement Policy. If you are asked by the council to carry out works following an inspection, and you feel that alternative works would be sufficient, please discuss this with the housing officer concerned since it may be possible to agree suitable alternative solutions. If the level of risk associated with a hazard has been sufficiently reduced, even if the terms of the order/notice have not been fully complied with, the council must revoke a notice served or order made to address that hazard. However all Category 1 hazards must be reduced to at least a Category 2 hazard, where practicable. The council charges for formal enforcement action and the charge is typically between £250 and £500. Hence you will save money by carrying out works to avoid formal action.