Empty Properties

Empty properties

Empty properties can be a problem for a number of reasons: -

  • They can become a magnet for anti social behaviour, not realising how dangerous they can be. If a property is not kept secure against access and a person is injured in or on the property, the owner can be liable.  
  • They attract vandalism, windows get broken, pipe work gets exposed and damaged, rubbish is dumped, and this can in turn attract vermin that can thrive in such conditions.  
  • They become a depreciating asset. When a property starts to fall into disrepair, it soon loses value, and quickly becomes costly to repair.  
  • They have a negative impact on the their immediate surroundings leading to a loss of confidence in the area and this in turn can lead to a lessening of value in the surrounding properties.

Empty properties are a wasted resource, when there is much needed housing required in many areas of the district. Bringing empty properties back into use reduces the need for as many new builds to be constructed on greenfield sites and can potentially reduce the number of people waiting on the Housing Register. 

How to spot an empty property

It is not always easy to spot an empty property.  Many owners keep their properties to a reasonable standard, making sure the garden is under control and that no obvious damage is done to the property. However, there's a good chance the property is still empty if:

  • the property is boarded up or has metal screens over the doors and windows
  • no one is ever seen entering or leaving the property
  • the front and back gardens are very overgrown
  • there is rubbish dumped at the front or back of the property
  • there are pests and vermin
  • there is evidence of squatting or illegal activities
  • the property looks derelict, with broken windows and doors, holes in the roof or a large amount of uncollected post has built up

Why does the council care about empty properties?

Properties that are left empty for long periods of time can be a concern for a number of reasons:

  • They can attract crime, arson, vandalism, squatting and anti-social behaviour.
  • They can be a financial burden on their owners.
  • They are a wasted resource in an area of high housing need.
  • They can cause anxiety for local residents and reduce the quality of life in a neighbourhood.
  • The Government has highlighted empty homes as an issue of national concern.

Returning empty homes to use eliminates these concerns and can provide a number of benefits:

  • It can give owners a financial return.
  • It improves the quality of a neighbourhood.
  • It brings much needed housing back into supply.

What can the council do to help me with my empty home?

We understand that bringing an empty home back into use can be a stressful, time consuming and expensive process. Our Empty Homes Officer is available to assist you with advice and support to help you turn your empty property into a home. We can provide a range of advice and assistance, including:

  • Identifying suitable uses for your property.
  • Advice on the local housing market and demand for properties.
  • Advice on basic legal issues relating to your property.
  • Advice on selling your property to a developer or other buyer.
  • Advice on letting your property through local agents.
  • Assistance in identifying external funding available for renovation.
  • Advice on renovating empty properties.
  • Advice on private sector leasing schemes.

What if I decide to leave my property empty?

The council is keen to offer owners of empty properties all available advice and assistance to bring their properties back into use. However, in circumstances where all attempts have failed and a small  minority of owners are not willing to work with us, we have a number of formal powers that can be used in the interests of local residents.

These include:

  • Serving legal notices requiring owners to ensure their property is in a reasonable state of repair, does not affect the surrounding neighbours and is secured from intruders.
  • Applying for Empty Dwelling Management Orders which enable the council to take over management of empty properties for up to 7 years.
  • Applying for an Enforced Sale or Compulsory Purchase Order.
  • Demolition order (only in extreme cases).

Reporting an Empty Property

As a Council we are aware of the majority of our empty properties within the district, but we know there are more out there.  Sometimes owners choose to not inform the council that their property is empty and pay full Council Tax, without someone reporting that it is empty we may never know.

If you are reporting an empty home it would be helpful if you have the following information:

  • street address
  • general condition including any visible vandalism
  • approximate length of time the property has been empty for
  • name and address details of the owner

Additionally if you are the owner, you will need:

  • the current internal condition of the property
  • any future plans or aspirations you have for the property

All information will be held in confidence.

For further information you can refer to East Northamptonshire Council's Empty Property Strategy.