An 'empty home' has several definitions.
Council Tax legislation defines a property as a long-term empty home when it has been empty of people, furniture or possessions for six months or more.
If a property remains empty for more than two years, a premium is applied. This means that additional Council Tax will be payable.
When we identify and target action against empty homes, we use the following definition:
Action, where appropriate, will be enforced under the appropriate legislation.
How we deal with empty homes
When we need to deal with an empty home, we have several options available to us.
Where an empty property is causing a statutory nuisance and affecting neighbouring properties, we will try to minimise any nuisance. This may include securing the property, or carrying out works in default to fix any disrepair that affects neighbouring houses. Examples of this include dangerous structures, or a broken sewer.
Where a property has been empty for longer than six months, we will contact the owner, and ask what their plans are for the property. We will offer offer advice and assistance (this includes information about our Empty Homes Renovation Loan), to help them return the property back into use.
Where an owner does not respond, engage with us, or does not seem to be taking steps to return the property to use, we will consider the following options.
Once a statutory notice has been served, and we have had to spend money in default to rectify an issue with the property - which is not then paid for by the owner - we will consider forcing a sale of the property, to recover costs.
We will consider the compulsory purchase of a property, when we are satisfied that:
- it's in a poor state of repair
- it's unlikely to be brought back into use by the owner
- a clear public benefit would be achieved via its sale
Clear public benefits include:
- provision of affordable housing
- reducing antisocial behaviour
- improving the neighbourhood's appearance
Where contact has been made with an owner of a property that's in a poor state of repair, we will consider buying the property.
A property that has been purchased voluntarily may then be sold to a housing association or developer, with an agreement that it's brought back into use within an agreed period of time.
The option of voluntary purchase will only be used when all other enforcement action is unsuitable, or not cost effective.