03 Aug 2022

Many if not most ex-local authority proprieties have lease terms or covenants that prevent them being used as serviced accomodation or HMOs.

Councils across the UK are increasingly using bullying enforcement to stop ex local authority property owners using their properties for anything other than family homes, although Landlord Licensing & Defence  has won a number of cases against council for landlords on these matters.

Now, Cornwall Council is planning to set up a dedicated investigation and enforcement unit to help clamp down on the number of ex-council houses being used as holiday homes.

Former council houses which have been sold under the Government’s Right to Buy scheme usually have a covenant on them to restrict them from being used as holiday lets or as houses of multiple occupation so that they are protected for use by local people.

However it is believed that there are dozens of homes bought under Right to Buy which are being advertised on Airbnb and used as holiday homes.

In a report on the housing crisis in Cornwall which is due to go to the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Leadership Board this week Cornwall Council is proposing a dedicated unit to clamp down on the practice.

The report says that as well as evidence of Right to Buy homes being used as holiday lets they are also being rented out as accommodation for students.

Under the plans the dedicated investigation and enforcement unit would identify breaches of any covenants and then work to ensure that Right to Buy properties are used as a main residence.

The issue of Right to Buy homes not being used as primary residences is one which has united councillors across the political spectrum in Cornwall.

Labour councillor Jayne Kirkham highlighted the issue earlier this year after hearing that there could be dozens of properties affected in Falmouth alone. 

Her comments echoed those of former Cabinet member for housing Andrew Mitchell and were also supported by Conservative councillors and current Cabinet members David Harris and Olly Monk.

The clampdown on the misuse of former council houses is just one measure of several which have been drawn up by the Conservative administration to help ease the current housing crisis.

It is also looking to continue work by the council to bring empty homes back into use. While that work has reduced the number from 3,000 in 2020 to 2,200 long-term empty homes are seen as “a hugely wasted resource”.

It is also recognised that empty homes are not just wasted to be used as a home but can sometimes be a local nuisance and blight to neighbours.

The council is planning an empty homes campaign and a taskforce which will offer grants and loans to help bring homes back into use while also using the council’s compulsory purchase and enforcement powers where necessary.

To help with the project the council will also work with town and parish councils to identify homes which can be brought back into use.

As a final note, Cornwall , like most councils, is obviously trying to lay all of the problems at the door of the Private Rented Sector whilst avoiding the “Mammoth in the Room” that they’ve not built any social housing for decades and their planning policies have made it incredibly difficult for developers to build anything, anywhere, any time!

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