Recently figures have shown that there has been a drop in the number of empty homes.

Norfolk News have reportedly seen evidence in this reduction, figures published by North Norfolk District Council which show that in October 2021 there were 477 long-term empty properties, this has reduced by nearly one hundred from the previous year when the number stood at 564. One councilor said “Every empty home that is brought back into use can make a real difference to people desperate for somewhere to live and this is a practice we wish to continue.”

Doncaster Free Pass reported a similar phenomenon, and despite having dozens of council houses still empty, it is reported that the number is falling, in just three months the figure fell from 170 to 147. Housing bosses said a number of measures were being taken in reducing the number of empty properties, these included analysing refusal reasons and putting measures in place to reduce people rejecting properties and additional advertising using Zoopla.

The Scottish Empty Homes Network say that bringing homes back into use will be a “key part” of solving Scotland’s housing shortage where there are around 43,766 long term empty properties. Scottish Empty Homes Partnership chief policy officer, Andy Moseley, said “A sharper focus on bringing empty homes back in to use can be a key part of providing the housing Scotland needs to address these shortages now and in the future.”

Often properties are left empty because someone has passed away and it is believed that there is no one to inherit the estate. When nothing is known about a deceased person’s family, it is likely that there are some surviving relatives who would be entitled and can be traced. The rules admit many different classes of entitled relatives in priority to the Crown – everyone from a surviving spouse or Civil Partner all the way out to half-blood cousins many times removed and everyone in between.

When faced with tracing next-of-kin of the deceased, it might be tempting for councils to refer the matter to the Bona Vacantia Division of the Government Legal Department which refers to ownerless properties. They is because they believe there is no one the property belongs to and it is therefore ‘unclaimed’. However, The Bona Vacantia “does not deal with estate referrals where there are known or likely to be entitled relatives” before an estate is referred, councils should be certain that there is definitely no one and the estate is, in fact, Bona Vacantia.

Next-of-kin can almost always be traced until proven otherwise. Fraser and Fraser work quickly and conclusively at no cost to the council to establish whether there is next-of-kin regardless of family estrangement and geographical distance.

If any matter is a genuine candidate for referral to the Division, we will on request complete the BV1A for you and handle the referral generally. Our report will give the Division comfort that the estate is, in fact, Bona Vacantia and can be administered in favour of the Crown.

At Fraser and Fraser, we’ve been working with the Public Sector since 1969 and have traced tens of thousands of family members all over the world where it was thought or confidently asserted that none existed. Next time you are considering a referral to Bona Vacantia why not let us find out the facts for you?