The blight of an empty home – a true story

My home is within a terrace and the neighbouring property became empty quite a number of years ago; forming part of an estate in probate.

Over the years it was left unoccupied and the upkeep of the property was neglected by the firm of Solicitors in charge, resulting in its condition to deteriorate over time:

  • both front and back gardens quickly became overgrown by weeds and brambles, breaking down boundary fences and party walls
  • gutters were not cleaned and with trees close by, they quickly became blocked; which resulted in rainwater overflowing and causing party walls to become saturated and suffer damp
  • our porches are joined, and we share the same felt roof.  Both roof structures were rotten and required replacing.  As I could not find anyone to accept responsibility for the neighbouring property, I had to carry out the work on my roof as best as possible, but its integrity is still threatened by the works not yet carried out next door
  • lead flashing has been hanging over the front door; posing a risk in windy weather to passers-by
  • the garage belonging to the property is situated at the end of a garage block.  The wall of the garage has clearly suffered some movement and a large crack has formed.  The wall was within a neighbour’s garden and there is concern that it may collapse, especially as we enter the winter months
  • there is evidence that the roof on the house requires re-pointing and has possibly experienced leaks.  I have concerns on the impact on my own property the longer the work is left unaddressed
  • the house is clearly unoccupied and there has been a constant worry of vandalism and squatters

I consider myself a capable individual, but the experience of having to try and deal with this situation has left my feeling completely at a loss, overwhelmed and quite vulnerable.  The Solicitors in charge of the estate were not local and failed to answer any communication from myself and other neighbours in regard to concerns raised.  I contacted my home insurance company, but they were unable to offer any support until my own property actually suffered damage and an insurance claim was made.  I tried to initiate legal representation, but   it quickly became evident that the firm of Solicitors were not being particularly professional in their approach and legal costs would become very costly.

I was so very relieved and thankful when Dorset Council became involved.  I was initially concerned that I would be passed from person to person and nothing would be achieved.  However, that simply was not the case.  It was so reassuring, and they took immediate ownership of the case after being contacted.  Throughout the process they took time to explain the options available to the Council and always kept me regularly informed of progress.  Any messages I left were always answered promptly and informatively.  Any immediate concerns with the property were quickly addressed and after so many years, I finally felt somebody was listening and on our side.

The outside of the property has recently been cleared and the house emptied.  It is soon to be sold and hopefully will become a lovely family home once again.

Mrs W, resident, Purbeck.

If you think a property near you has been left empty long-term, let us know by registering it on our website: www.dorsetcouncil.gov.uk/emptyhomes