Swindon Borough Council shared the tale of how it has helped bring one house back into use after dealing with fraudulent behaviour by the owner and recovering council tax owed.

In June 2016, the council started to receive complaints surrounding an empty property in Drove Road that was attracting squatters and vermin. Eventually the gardens were so overgrown they were at second storey level in height and growing through the building’s roof and windows, into the property.

Records showed that the owner had been claiming Council Tax Benefit since 2007 and Council Tax Reduction and Single Persons Discount at 25 per cent since 2013, but some detective work by officers proved they had not lived in the house since 2011. They were not able to claim for discounts and were liable for extra council tax as the house had been empty for so long.

The empty homes officer arranged for three local estate agents to visit the house and provide independent open market valuations and arranged for three property clearance companies to provide quotes to remove the belongings, which the owner said he no longer wanted, and clear the overgrown gardens.

By the end of 2020, the property and gardens had been cleared, with any remaining belongings being stored in a council garage for the owner. The property was sold quickly on the open market and returned into use.

The owner is now able to use some of the proceeds from the sale to repay the council tax debt he owed to the council.