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Landlords criticised for leaving thousands of homes empty across the city

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Private landlords have been criticised for leaving thousands of homes empty across Wakefield.

More than 3,300 houses in the district had been vacant for at least one month, figures dating from March show, although the number of derelict properties in Wakefield has fallen.

The district no longer has any “empty property hotspots” or single streets with lots of abandoned homes, a report said.

Councillor Glenn Burton, who has led a task group on the issue, said he’d been “pleasantly surprised” by his findings.

Speaking at a scrutiny committee meeting on Monday, he said: “There’s been a change over time from having very concentrated areas of Victorian terraced housing, which was in very low demand, particularly in the south-east and Hemsworth.

“Having been a problem in the past, it isn’t anymore.”

Only 0.8 per cent of the city’s overall housing stock is empty, compared to a national average of 1.8 per cent, which Coun Burton said showed Wakefield was “punching above its weight on the issue”.

The report said that “emotional attachment”, landlords waiting for property prices to rise and a lack of funds to renovate were among the reasons homes were left vacant.

Councillor David Jones said that rogue property owners who did not follow legal guidelines were a contributing factor because they were difficult to trace.

He said: “A number of these private landlords aren’t registered landlords and so they go off the radar.

“As a consequence more pressure needs to be put on this particular type of landlords.”

Coun Betty Rhodes said that some owners were letting individual rooms out to large groups, causing overcrowding.

She said: “There was one case in my ward (Wakefield North) where every room in the house had a family put in it.

“There was just one kitchen and one bathroom and all the families had to share them.

“For some people, it’s just all about the income. The landlord has thought, “I can get another family up there, regardless of the consequences”.

“It is an issue.”

The report praised the council’s action on empty homes in recent years and said the ways landlords with empty homes can be helped should be “better promoted”.

David Spereall , Local Democracy Reportng Service