Owners of empty properties owe Kingston Council more than £120,000 in council tax, with more than 300 homes unoccupied.

But a scheme to bring empty homes back into use has seen 800 properties brought to a habitable standard since 2010, the authority said this week.

Councillor Patricia Bamford, lead member for better homes, said: “We will take action against owners where informal approaches prove unsuccessful.

“There are a number willing to just leave them empty.”

Surrey Comet:

This house even had a tree growing out of it.

Former Labour councillor Steve Mama said: “The council ought to be pleased that people want to come and live in Kingston, and ought to be helping them by building.”

Empty homes can be targets for rats, vandals and fly-tippers, affecting property prices.