Empty properties can contribute towards the degeneration of an area and undermine community spirit. They can also become the focus of anti-social behaviour, fly tipping and rodent activity.
Returning an empty property to use can not only resolve these environmental and social problems, but can also provide a ‘new’ home, which helps meeting housing demand, reduces pressure on new build development and can also provide an income and asset for the owner.
We want to encourage landlords to bring empty properties back into use as homes. We recognise that properties are often empty for a wide variety of reasons and our role is therefore to initially influence and encourage property owners. This can include advice about undertaking repairs, selling the property or renting it. However we may also take appropriate enforcement action where these informal negotiations fail.
The cost of keeping a property empty
The condition of an empty property can deteriorate rapidly, costing more to insure and eventually repair, especially if it’s subject to vandalism. An empty home is also a wasted asset that could be providing a home or an income via rent. It has been estimated that keeping a property empty could cost the owner as much as £135 a week or just over £7,000 every year.
If a property is currently left empty for over two years, the owner will be charged a premium rate of Council Tax at a rate of 200%. As an illustration the owner of an empty property in ‘Band D’ would see their Council Tax Bill rise from just over £2,000 to just over £4,000.
From the 1 April 2020 properties left empty for 5 years or more will be charged at 300%. From the 1 April 2021 properties left empty for 10 years or more will be charged at 400%.
These provisions are designed to encourage property owners not to leave properties empty.
If a residential property has been empty for 2 years or more, the owner may be entitled to claim a reduced rate of VAT of 5% on works of renovation or alternation. Further information is available from the HMRC. If you wish to try and claim this reduced rate then you will need documented proof of the period of time the property has been empty. To assist we can check our records and if the property has been empty for 2 years, we can provide a letter confirming this. Contact us using the below details.
Empty property loans
If your empty property needs renovation, in certain circumstances you could be eligible for a low cost loan. Loans for up to £15,000 may be available through the councils partner; Lendology Community Interest Company (CIC), previously known as Wessex Resolutions.
Lendology CIC’s team of advisers will guide you through the process of applying for an empty home improvement loan, assess your eligibility, how much you could borrow and the loan best suited to your circumstances. Contact Lendology CIC for an informal chat about the repairs or improvements required to your empty property and how to apply.
I am interested in an empty property, how can I find out more?
You may be able to find out who the current owner is through the Land Registry. If you can't, contact the Empty Homes Officer, who can attempt to contact the owner on your behalf. Data protection restrictions mean we cannot give out owner's details.
Where offers of help and assistance have failed to bring an empty property back into use, then the council has a range of discretionary enforcement powers available to it. These powers tend to be used as a last resort, where an empty property is causing a nuisance or causing other environmental issues within the local community. This enforcement action can range from Compulsory Purchase powers, to in certain circumstances legally ‘forcing’ the sale of the property. We may also effectively take over the management of the property under the Housing Act 2004 using an Empty Dwelling Management Order.
If you own an empty home and want further advice about Council Tax, VAT or an Empty Property Loan then contact us.