HILDESLEY Road is the location of the latest run-down property which has moved its neighbours to contact iomtoday.
Neighbour Jane Leach said the brick built terraced house had been empty for at least five years – many years longer according to the other residents.
‘It is such a shame as it has been left to deteriorate and brings down the area as the majority of houses on Hildesley Road are well loved and well maintained,’ she said.
‘We’ve heard nothing for some time.’
‘I’m sure it would be snapped up in an instant by someone who could give it the love, attention and restoration it deserves and make it into a lovely characterful home.’
Douglas councillor Ritchie McNicholl, chairman of the environmental services committee, said he intended to raise the issue of empty houses in the next planning committee meeting. He said in some cases where damp or vermin became a problem environmental health would take action, but in other circumstances he said it could be a lengthy process.
‘What I don’t understand is property isn’t cheap. Why leave it to get into that condition?’
He said he thought the house on Hildesley Road was part of a deceased estate.
‘As far as I know he didn’t have any close relatives and it is in the hands of the lawyers.’
But he added the council faced problems even simply tracing who the owners of properties were.
‘Brenda Cannell [MHK] is wrong when she says (Independent September 13) we can trace the owners through payment of rates. That often isn’t true. If the property needs renovating it may well be uninhabitable and in that case they will not pay rates,’ he said.
In addition he said some properties were in company names and the owner was anonymous. Even when ownership had been established and letters written, in some instances the owners simply ignored them or made empty promises to do the work.
‘We tell them what is wrong, they propose various amendments and we tell them a time scale. If it is not done we write back to them again and we can issue a formal notice. Then if the work still isn’t done we take them to court and the court will decide if it is actually dilapidated,’ he said.
‘If damp is causing problems or vermin then it can be put in the hands of the environmental health department.’
Mr McNicholl said such properties had been a ‘thorn in the side’ of the council for many years and extra powers were needed such as the right to compulsorily purchase a property if all else failed or at least some way of fast-tracking the process so owners had stricter time limits in which to effect an improvment. He also suggested some sort of government grant should be available for those without the means to do improvements.
‘I don’t think there should be any rates exemption for an empty property: if they had to pay they might think twice,’ he said.
‘Remember we have 600 people waiting for public sector housing so maybe the government should take ownership of them.
‘But you also have to remember we have a large elderly population with diminishing savings and you can’t push them into something they can’t afford.’
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