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Unoccupied and decaying properties can have a serious impact on the neighbourhood and can become a focus for vandalism and anti-social behaviour. However, as one case showed, local authorities have a range of powers to deal with such eyesores, even if their owners cannot be traced.
The case concerned a 1950s-built three-bedroom house that had been empty for a number of years and was in an advanced state of disrepair. The council had made fruitless efforts to contact the property's owner, who had apparently disappeared. In response to complaints from local residents, it had spent more than £20,000 on securing the property and clearing its garden.
The council took the view that the only solution was to compulsorily purchase the property and an order was issued to that effect. The council subsequently referred the matter to the Upper Tribunal (UT) for an assessment of the compensation payable to the owner, if he could be found, or his estate if he was deceased.
The UT ruled that, in a fair condition, the property would be worth about £210,000. However, after the expense of necessary renovations and the costs incurred by the council were deducted, compensation was fixed at £140,000.