Empty homes

Information for owners with empty properties

A long term empty home is one that has been vacant for 6 months or more. An empty home can cost its owner thousands of pounds each year.

Managing your empty home

Even if your empty property is in good condition now, empty properties are more likely to be at risk of vandalism and criminal damage, and to have higher maintenance and repair costs than occupied properties. While your property remains empty, it is important that you take the time to ensure it does not deteriorate. As a bare minimum you should ensure that it is secured and maintained and make every effort to ensure that it does not become a nuisance to neighbours.

As we go into the spring months and the growing season gets underway unmaintained gardens can cause a particular nuisance to neighbours and the street scene. Foliage that overhangs onto footpaths is a particular nuisance to pedestrians and may result in enforcement action against owners of properties requiring owners to undertake works, or incurring the cost of works being done in default. An untidy garden can be an indicator of an empty home and may attract unwanted attention to the property including vandalism, burglaries or fraudsters.

We recommend that you:

  • Maintain gardens and exterior spaces
  • Check the property regularly
  • Repair any accidental damage or vandalism
  • Hang curtains or blinds so it looks occupied
  • Ensure property is adequately insured
  • Leave a contact telephone number with neighbours

Prevention is better than cost of cure

Every effort should be made to prevent deterioration of your property, especially over the winter months when there are a number of increased risks. In particular, water pipes can freeze and split, and pipes can burst: when a property is empty this can go unnoticed for some considerable time.

You should note that many insurance policies are invalidated if the property is left empty for 1-3 months or more. You should check your insurance policy to confirm the details for your empty home. Remember that if you have a mortgage you are legally obliged to have home insurance, so if your policy has become invalid because the property is empty, you must contact your insurance providers.

You might also wish to register with a flood alert service to ensure that if there is an extreme weather that puts your property at risk of flooding, you receive a warning of this in time to prevent water ingress.

Be aware of property fraud

As buildings are usually the most valuable assets people own they make attractive targets for fraudsters. Any property owner can become a victim of property fraud; however it becomes considerably more likely where a property is empty.

There are many different types of property fraud. They can range from a fraudster using the empty property address to obtain loans and credit cards, to them claiming ownership of an empty property to raise money from mortgaging or selling it.

There are a number of things you can do to prevent fraud or forgery in relation to your empty home:

  • Make sure your property and title is registered with Land Registry
    This gives you greater security of title and means that if you suffer a loss as a result of a fraud then compensation may be available.
  • Be careful if you are asked to sign documents
    Take professional advice if you are not sure what you have been asked to sign and what its legal effects might be.
  • Make regular inspections of your property
    Check that the property is not being occupied without your knowledge or used as a correspondence address for persons you do not know.
  • Keep your details up-to-date with your utility providers
    Fraudsters may change the utilities into their name in order to obtain ‘proof of address’ documents which may then be used to apply for credit.

Occupation is the best security

The best way to ensure your property is safe and secure while you are not using it is to keep it occupied. Occupation deters crime and keeps your property regularly maintained.

There are a number of options for getting your property back into use. These include:

  • Selling the property to a new owner
  • Renting the property out, either you through a letting agent or through a local deposit guarantee scheme.
  • Renting the property out on a short term basis, for example, as a holiday let.