Don’t Miss Out

The Spending Review confirmed the continuation of the New Homes Bonus for 2021 to 2022. Beyond this, however, the future for this scheme is unknown with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government currently carrying out a consultation on options for reforming the New Homes Bonus (NHB), beginning in 2022/23.

With local authority finances hit hard during the pandemic, time could be running out to take advantage of additional government funding for each dwelling brought back into occupation.

Understandably, some local authorities could miss out on these benefits due to pressures on internal resources. This is where we are ready to help. The NPS Empty Property Review Service is an end-to-end fully managed service which enables you to benefit from additional NHB funding, without placing extra pressures on your existing resources.

The NPS Empty Property Review Service 

NPS has an excellent track record of delivering effective Empty Property Reviews. Our strategy focuses on building successful partnerships by providing hassle free services, enabling council teams to focus on their core priority business.

At the centre of our success is our partnership with Reigate and Banstead Borough Council and who deliver services alongside Oxford City Council. They provide invaluable experience, a public sector ethos and technical expertise to ensure that the service provided is of the highest quality.

Common Misapprehensions 

Won’t the project put additional strains on my internal team and workloads?

Absolutely not. The NPS Empty Property Review Service offers its Local Authority clients a fully managed service. We take complete ownership of the review, dealing with the end-to -end process including all aspects of data matching and analysis, canvassing, handling of incoming correspondence, system updates and property visits.

We regularly review small batches of empty properties internally by writing to the property. How will a NPS review add additional value?

Whilst local authorities may conduct internal reviews, NPS has the scalability to carry out reviews in bulk. Through our specialist partners, we have access to robust and credible data meaning we can correctly target properties, ensuring our efforts are focused in the correct areas. This not only helps to identify occupied properties but helps to improve collection through accurate Council Tax records and improved contact information.

We cannot handle increased citizen contact at present.

Our review service offers citizens multiple channels of communication including access to an online portal, available 24 hours per day, a call-centre team staffed with experienced revenues practitioners and we manage the traditional canvass forms. We handled 10 reviews during 2020, all of which provided successful results with no impact on our local authority clients.

Wouldn’t it be better to review the properties closer to the CTB1 submission?

To optimise results, it’s important to get the review started as early as possible. Local Authorities who leave it until last minute risk having to skip steps in the process which means you risk missing out on occupied properties. We can also include properties that will have been empty for 6 months at the point of the CTB1 submission.

With the current position, how can we be confident that the visits will be managed sensibly? 

NPS partners with Reigate and Banstead Borough Council and Oxford City Council to carry out property inspections. The team is led by Reigate and Banstead Borough Council’s Head of Revenues, Benefits and Fraud and unlike private sector visiting officers, uses its local authority background to establish a genuine occupied property. Since partnering with Reigate and Banstead Borough Council, our reviews have identified on average, 5% more occupied properties. In addition, as experienced Local Authority officers, Reigate and Banstead Borough Council also report any vulnerability issues they find. For example, in past reviews an elderly neighbour reported some anti-social behaviour by teenagers on her road, which was subsequently reported to the council’s internal team.

What technology is used to capture data from property inspections?

Our public sector visiting officers use bespoke mobile technology provided by Destin Solutions to capture the data on a mobile App that is instantly uploaded to the Cloud and can be downloaded quickly and efficiently. This includes a photograph of the property, which can be used to verify the date and time of the visit by the GPS data. Reports are generated daily and submitted to the client.

We might be better off waiting until next year.

There is no guarantee that the funding will be available next year. The Council should take this opportunity to capitalise on the scheme, especially given the financial pressures caused by Covid-19.

“Each year NPS has delivered an effective, fully managed empty property review for North Herts District Council. Their staff are proficient in all aspects of the scope of this work. NPS also uses trained local authority officers to manage any property visits, which adds an extra level of assurance that customer contact is being handled with sensitivity”

~ Geraldine Goodwin, Revenues Manager, North Hertfordshire District Council

If you are interested in learning more about the Empty Property Review Service, please contact Leigh Barber at leigh.barber@northgateps.com or on 07584 183615.