Empty Residential Properties
Why are homes left empty?
A significant number of homes are empty while they are being refurbished, are on the market to be sold or let, or are part of a person's estate that is being finalised. These will often come back into use as a matter of course without the need for any intervention.
There are other empty homes where the owner is unable to bring the home back into use without some help. This might be because they don't have the time, knowledge, or the money to do what is necessary.
There may also be owners who have abandoned properties, or who have no intention of doing anything with them. It may be that these properties have been bought as an investment to be sold on when the property market improves or the owners may have moved away from the area and it is a case of "out of sight, out of mind".
We want to encourage owners to bring these homes back into use, but where they continue to leave the property empty without good reason, and it is causing a harmful effect on the surrounding area, we will use legal powers available to us.
What can I do to bring my empty home back into use?
There are a few options available to you:
1. Sell the property
You can sell the property privately, or through an estate agent. Estate agents charge a fee for their service, but are more likely to achieve greater coverage in marketing the property for you, and can provide information and advice about the selling process.
Some social housing providers may also be interested in buying your property, particularly if it's on an estate that they manage.
2. Let the property to tenants
You can let the property privately, or through a recognised letting agent. You could let the property using the Council's own Rother Letting Service which offers a wide range of services from general advice and market appraisal to rent management and tenant support.
If you do decide to let your property, you must consider the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) which sets out a risk assessment approach to ensuring a property is suitable for letting.
3. Lease your property through a property management company
Another solution is to enter into a longer term lease with a property management company. This type of company will lease the property from you for an agreed period of time, for example 3 or 5 years, and sub-let it to a tenant. You will receive a guaranteed rental income (which is likely to be lower than the income you would get if you let the property yourself), the management company takes on the responsibility for tenant damage to the property, and still pay the agreed rent to you between tenancies.
Some companies also provide finance to carry out any repairs to the property to make it ready for a tenant to move in.
The YMCA is particularly interested in leasing properties through this type of scheme.
4. Improve the property
If you intend to improve the property, make sure you use reputable tradespeople to carry out the work; we recommend getting three quotes and taking up references where possible. The Buy with Confidence scheme offers details of contractors who have undergone checks by Trading Standards. Certain types of work require building regulations approval, or must be carried out by a contractor on a competent persons' scheme, including gas, electrics, and windows and doors.
Our Enforcement powers
There are a number of enforcement options open to the Council; however the most likely enforcement action we would use would be through issuing S215 Notices. A S215 Notice requires a property owner to take certain steps to remedy disrepair where it is causing a harmful effect on the area.
Other enforcement powers available to us include:
- Compulsory purchase orders can be used to buy the property;
- Empty dwelling management orders enable us to take over the management of the property;
- The sale of the property can be forced where the owner has an outstanding debt to us, for example unpaid Council Tax or where we have had to carry out emergency repairs or boarding up to secure the property
Do you want to buy an empty home?
If you have seen an empty home that you are interested in buying, you can find out who the owner is by carrying out a 'Find a property' search on the Land Registry website. There is a small fee to pay for this. If you are unable to find the current owner from the Land Registry information, we may attempt to contact the owner on your behalf to let them know that you are interested in purchasing their property. Data protection restrictions prevent us from revealing owners' details directly to you. Use the 'report an empty home' form below, providing your contact details, the address of the empty property and any information you have gathered on the property e.g. through the property search on the Land Registry website.
Reporting an Empty Home
If you want to report an empty home that is causing a problem near you, please complete our 'Report an Empty Home' online form.
Empty Homes is an independent charity, and provides useful information about bringing empty homes back into use.
The Department for Communities and Local Government, together with the Ministry of Justice, have published an advice guide on dealing with squatters on their website.