The number of empty properties is on the rise because of the pandemic, according to a property guardian firm.
The Property Guardian Providers Association has highlighted the “yawning gap between the UK's steep rise in the number of vacant properties and the growing numbers of people seeking affordable accommodation”.
Graham Sievers, chairman of the PGPA, the body that sets safety and quality standards for member property guardian companies, said: “Hundreds of thousands of homes have been empty for many months, even years, but the regulators and authorities are doing more to discourage their use than to match them up with people desperately seeking affordable accommodation.”
Sievers added: “The pandemic has led to a significant rise of empty properties, both commercial and residential, whilst at the same time, people's living expenses have been hit by a shortfall in incomes. A third of guardians are key workers – medical staff, teachers, police, firefighters – and approximately a third more are in the creative sector.
“At a time when there are greater pressures for providing more affordable housing, the property guardian model could be enabling over 100,000 people to live closer to work and save on their living expenses, whilst also saving millions of pounds protecting vacant buildings.
"It seems crazy that the government and the regulators treat these properties as if they were part of the private rental sector when they are clearly only intended to provide accommodation temporarily, and not for decades. Property regulations, aimed at protecting traditional tenants in the long-term private sector, are inappropriately being applied to temporarily vacant buildings being adapted for ‘meanwhile use' to keep the properties secure."
This week is National Empty Homes Week.
Separately, pest control companies have warned that the numbers of rat infestations in empty and closed pubs and restaurants in the UK has reached “biblical levels” as they urge managers and landlords to check premises for infestations well before lockdown restrictions ease.
“The big worry is when premises are unlocked in preparation for openings over the next few months, that landlords and managers are going to discover fairly advanced infestations of rats and mice”, said Jenny Rathbone from Pest.co.uk.
“The big freeze, lockdowns and food stockpiling have created the ideal environment for rats and mice to enjoy a little quiet time in our favourite closed local pubs and restaurants – and because many were quickly locked and left, the worry is that infestations will have taken hold.”