‘BOUNTY hunters’ are chasing down absentee landlords in Burnley who let their properties become rundown eyesores.

Since Burnley Council began using the services of FinderMonkey, a specialist people-finding company, the number of prosecutions for environmental crimes has rocketed.

In 2010/11 the local authority brought 208 prosecutions for environmental crimes, which is almost double the 112 in the previous year.

It currently stands fourth in the Environment Agency’s list of councils which prosecute most often for such offences.

Absentee landlords are often based out of town and rarely visit their properties to carry out necessary maintenance work.

In April Hampshire-based Paul Higgins Drysdale, dubbed ‘Burnley’s most inconsiderate landlord’, was prosecuted for neglecting houses in Albert Street and Todmorden Road.

He ignored two litter abatement notices and was fined £1,050, with £420 court costs.

Council solicitor Jonathan Jackson said he hoped the latest scheme would boost people’s confidence in the authority’s ability to deal with complaints and enforce legal action.

He said: “Many absentee landlords have property in the most run down areas, and it is residents in these neighbourhoods that are seeing the benefit of this work as more back yards are cleared up and more offenders are brought to court.”

Every year FinderMonkey traces more than 5,000 people, including long lost relatives and missing tenants.

As part of the initiative in Burnley, investigators provide the council with information which is then distributed to council tax, revenues, housing and planning officers.

They use the information, which includes up-to-date names and telephone numbers, to collect outstanding fines and bills.

Boss John Arko said: “We use the same techniques when looking for fine defaulters and absent landlords as when we’re reuniting family members or searching for missing tenants.

“Sometimes it takes just a few hours but searches going back several years or decades can take weeks of research involving painstaking manual checks of historical records.

“It’s very rare that we fail to find the person we’re looking for and even in extremely complex cases dating back several decades we can usually provide a definitive name and address.

“If we don’t find someone we don’t charge.”