Empty home advice

Long-term empty premises can create dereliction; attract crime and anti-social
behaviour, creating pockets of undesirable, unattractive places to live. There are
also practical issues to consider:

  • No income from rent  
  • Increased insurance premiums or companies refusing to cover 
  • Ongoing Council Tax payments 
  • Risk of squatters and legal fee to remove them 
  • Dilapidation whilst empty 
  • Increased risk of vandalism 
  • Increased risk of fire 
  • Boarding up costs 
  • Unnoticed leaks and damp penetration 
  • Ongoing security costs 
  • Ongoing neighbour complaints 
  • Empty premises become an expensive responsibility.

The reuse of empty premises can bring both financial and non-financial benefits to
Local Authorities, the general public and to their owners:
• Provides rental income and better sales potential for owners
• Brings investment into an area
• Revitalises the local economy
• Makes the area more attractive and a safer place to live
• Supports area regeneration programmes
• Ensures economic stability and growth
• Provides a home for someone in housing need

Sell the property.
You could sell your property on the open market – employ an estate agent or advertise it yourself locally or on the Internet.

  • You will find listings of estate agents in the Sefton Council area on the Internet or in the Yellow Pages. 
  • Make sure you choose the most suitable agent for your needs. Check that the agent sells houses in the relevant area and that they sell other similar properties to yours -some estate agents may specialise in selling empty and run down properties. 
  • Run down and empty premises can take longer to sell and are often more difficult to sell to a general buyer. Please be aware that you may have to drop the price or do some renovations / improvements to the property to make it more attractive. 

Sell at a property auction. These are a quick, decisive way of selling and they can be much quicker than selling on the open market. They are aimed at a targeted audience – developers, cash buyers, investors and portfolio landlords, and the very issues that might make empty properties unattractive to home owners may make them attractive to these buyers.

  • Contact the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), Customer Services Department, 12 Great George Street, Parliament Square, London, SW1P 3AD (Tel. 020 7222 7000) for details of estate agents running auctions in your area.

Let / Rent the property out become the landlord. You do need to understand that becoming a landlord is a business opportunity and must be considered in this context. If you have no business experience and limited time, you should seriously consider whether becoming a landlord is a suitable option. Should you wish to let the property yourself there are various factors that need to be considered:

  • Finding a tenant – always be cautious when finding a tenant. It is always advisable to interview prospective tenants yourself and get references. You also need to ensure that you do not discriminate in any way yourself – based on race, religion, sex, age or disability, when choosing a tenant.
  • Get a good contract, which will be the Tenancy Agreement. Think about any restrictions you wish to place on the tenant and the use of your property.
  • Ask for a rent that is realistic and affordable for your potential tenants. Housing Benefit – if your prospective tenant intends to claim housing benefit then please contact us and complete the online form, see Do it online, Council Tax Landlord Tenancy change.
  • Complete the Council Tax Landlord Tenancy change form to keep us updated with changes in your coulcil tax.
  • If you have a loan or a mortgage that is secured against your property you must obtain consent from the lender that you can let the property out. Without this consent the tenancy may be deemed unlawful and the lender than has the right to take possession of the property. 
  • You should confirm that your buildings insurance will be maintained if the property is let. You should consider the public liability element of your insurance and check that this will cover any loss or injury occurring at the property which might be sustained by the tenant or visitors during the tenancy – for which you, the landlord, could be liable. 

HMO (Houses of Multiple Occupation) licensing. If your property is three or more stories high and has five or more occupants who share amenities such as bathrooms, toilets and cooking facilities it now has to be licensed under the compulsory licensing scheme introduced under the Housing Act 2004. Operating an unlicensed HMO is a criminal offence that carries a fine of up to £20,000. See further information.

Useful websites and contacts

ƒwww.residentiallandlord.co.uk or call 0870 765 2005
www.direct.gov.uk - Go to the home and community section, then the private renting and letting section.
Use a Private Rental / Management / Letting Agency. You may wish to engage the services of a professional agent to manage the tenancy. A letting agent will act on your behalf for a fee. Letting agencies can: find a
tenant for a property, collect rent, manage the property, arrange repairs and provide tenancy agreements and inventories.

  • The Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) Tel: 0845 345 5752, Email: info@arla.co.uk 
  • The National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS) Tel: 01242 581712, Email: info@nalscheme.co.uk 
  • The National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) Tel: 01926 496 800, Email: info@naea.co.uk
  • The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) Tel: 0870 333 1600, Email: contactrics@rics.org

If the agency you are using is a member of one of the above you may be able to complain if it does not keep to a certain standard of good practice.

It is not illegal to keep a property empty but it can be an expensive option. 

Also, long-term empty premises can cause and be subject to various problems and issues, that may lead to enforcement action.

If your property is only lived in occasionally – perhaps because you live elsewhere at other times – you need to make arrangements for it to be secure and well maintained during your absences. To prevent the property
falling into disrepair and becoming a target for anti-social behaviour you should, at least:

  • Arrange adequate insurance. 
  • Arrange for the gardens to be maintained to a minimum standard. 
  • Create the appearance that it is occupied, for example, by hanging curtains. 
  • Have it inspected at regular intervals and undertake any repairs or damage that may occur. 
  • Consider giving a neighbour a telephone number so that someone can be contacted in an emergency. 

Does the Council offer any grants?
Unfortunately, the Council does not have the funds to offer grant assistance to empty homeowners.
What enforcement measures could the council use in relation to my empty property?

The Council’s main hope is that empty premises in the borough can be brought back into use through a process of advice, assistance, negotiation and co-operation. Only when owners refuse to look after their premises or co-operate with the Council will enforcement action become necessary.

There are various departments within the Council that can carry out enforcement measures to deal with problems arising with vacant premises.
These are:
o Public Health
o Planning
o Building Control
o Housing

Council Served notices

Under various legislation the Council can serve notices on the owner requiring the owner to rectify any problems occurring with the property. If the owner does not carry out the works within the specified time limit the Council may do the works in default and a charge can be placed on the property. The Council can also prosecute an owner for not carrying out the works stated in a notice.

  • When a charge is placed on the property the Council may be able to recover this money through debt collection or if the owner refuses to pay the debt the Council can, under the Law of Property Act 1925, carry out an enforced sale on the property. The enforced sale procedure enables the council to force the sale of a property to recover any money owing to the Council. 
  • Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMO’s). These allow a council to lease a home to meet housing need ultimately without the owners permission.

These procedures would only be used as a last resort and we hope that owners will take responsibility for their premises before this stage would have to be reached.

Last Updated on 17 September 2017