Empty homes

There are just under 700 homes, which have been empty for longer than 6 months in the borough.

These empty homes represent a significant waste of valuable housing accommodation. This is especially pressing at a time of both affordable housing shortages in the borough and low rates of new housing completion

Problems with empty homes

Vacant dwellings can often have a seriously detrimental effect upon the condition and value of adjoining properties and on the local community.  Usually, the longer dwellings remain empty, the greater their disrepair and risk of vandalism.

An empty property can also cost the owner a significant amount of money due to the following problems:

  • Property deterioration and on-going maintenance costs.
  • Expensive insurance.
  • Loss of income from either renting out or selling the property
  • Council Tax: if the property is empty for longer than 2 years, then the owner will be charged 150% Council Tax. 
  • The owner may be liable for costs incurred by the council in removing rubbish and preventing unlawful entry

It is estimated that leaving a home empty can cost in the region of £7,000 per annum, just in terms of insurance, maintenance, council tax and the loss of potential income.

What can I do to bring my empty home back into use?

There are a number of ways to bring your empty home back into use as follows:

Sell it

The property market has improved over the last 12 months, with property values increasing by around 1.5% to 7.5% across the Borough (source: Zoopla: March 2014). As a result it may be an opportune time to try and sell your property and realise the value. An empty property can be attractive for many buyers as there maybe no upward chain.

We can:

  • Signpost you to potential marketing services
  • Offer you general advice on selling your home
  • Advise you of developers or other potential purchasers interested in purchasing empty homes

Rent it out

 There has been an immense increase in demand from people wanting to rent property in recent years.   

We can:

  • Assist you in identifying and choosing a letting agent
  • Offer you advice on becoming a landlord
  • Help you find suitable tenants
  • Advise you on local housing allowances and tenancy deposit schemes

Renovate it

 You may need to refurbish or repair the property before you can sell it or rent it out. There's a reduced VAT rate for the cost of renovating an empty property that's been empty for two years or more. You can pay just 5% instead of 20%. (See http://www.hmce.gov.uk/). If you can't afford the work, or it's difficult to organise (for example, because you live a long way away), think about selling to a builder or developer at a lower price.

We can:

  • Help you identify funding options including the availability of any grant assistance
  • Offer you advice on renovating your property
  • Refer you to the National Empty Homes Loan Fund

General advice

The council is also able to offer a wide rang of general advice for owners to help them bring their empty home back into use, including:

  • Help you decide what is considered to be the most appropriate use for your property and you;
  • Offer you advice on the local housing market and demand for accommodation;
  • Advise you of some of the legal issues that could affect your property and subsequently your decision.

What will happen if my property remains empty?

Although we have various statutory powers to deal with empty homes, we are keen to encourage owners to re-let or re-occupy them without the worry of enforcement action. However, in certain circumstances we may have to use enforcement action to ensure that empty homes are brought back into use.

Further information

For more information about bringing empty homes back into use, or if you wish to report an empty home, then contact us.