COUNTY officials have pledged to take a tough stance against the scourge of long-term empty houses in Dorset.

It is estimated there are roughly 400 long-term empty houses within the council's boundaries.

Meanwhile, there are more than 6,000 people looking for a suitable home on Dorset Council's housing register.

Against this backdrop, Dorset Council has been taking part in Empty Homes Week – an initiative launched to help offset the current national housing shortage.

Councillor Graham Carr-Jones, Dorset Council portfolio holder for housing and community safety, said: “The council is now taking a wide range of action to bring long-term empty homes back into use.

“We need more housing for Dorset and empty homes can play a key part in helping us achieve that.

“Where empty homeowners don’t want to work with us, we won’t shy away from taking enforcement action to achieve our aims of creating more homes and improving our communities.”

Enforcement action that will be considered, council officials say, includes compulsory purchase or taking over the property by an empty dwelling management order.

Dorset Council’s housing standards team is urging people to come forward to report or seek help to deal with a long-term empty home.

From April 2021, houses which have been empty for 10 years or more will be charged 400 per cent, or quadruple, council tax.

This will mean an increase from £2,000 to £8,000 a year for a typical band D empty home.

The council says it is also actively working on more than 30 of the worst empty properties in the county – where action is either being progressed or considered.

Cllr Carr-Jones said: “If you know of a property that has been left empty for a long time or if you own an empty home, let the council know about it by registering it online.”

Empty Homes Week runs until Sunday, February 21.

Visit to register a property.