Northampton Borough Council
Northampton Borough Council

Tackling empty homes

There are many reasons why a property is left empty, some are short-term, unintentional or temporary; stays in hospital, refurbishments or repairs, delays in selling or letting can all leave a property empty for weeks, sometimes months.

Other properties don't come back into use again quite so quickly and can start to cause issues such as squatting, vandalism and other anti-social behaviour.

This has a negative impact on the local community, including property values for that area.

Take action

If you, your property or neighbourhood are affected by an empty home, tell us - we can help.

You can report empty properties online, quickly and easily: 

Other courses of action

In the short term there are a number of things that you can do. If you are in the process of bringing the homes back into use yourself, ensure that you inspect your property regularly. You don’t want your property to look empty and attract crime so remove post from the letter box and put net curtains up at the windows. In the summer months ensure gardens are kept well maintained and during severe cold weather, put the heating on for short periods.

Over the longer term you can renovate the property and make it start generating extra income for you by renting it out.  This can either be done by you or you could use an agency. Alternatively, you could sell the property either yourself, through an estate agent or at an auction.

If your property has been empty for more than 2 years, you may be able to claim a VAT reduction on the refurbishment costs, being charged 5% instead of 20%.  If the property has been empty for over 10 years, you may be able to complete renovation works at zero rated tax. Refer to HMRC for full details. 

What does your empty property cost you?

All of these things end up costing the owner of the property. Homes that are left empty can be very costly as well as a missed opportunity for generating income.  A typical 2-bed property in Northampton could be costing you the following each year:  

Type Cost
Loss of rental income £6,500 (rounded LHA rate)
Council Tax
£1,150 (approximate figure for band B property)
Dilapidation £500
Security
£300
Insurance (if you can obtain insurance on an empty property) £280 (if you can obtain insurance on an empty property)

This totals up to £8,730, and that’s without the unknown costs of repairs. Winters are getting colder, increasing the chances of frozen pipes that then split and create water leaks that can be extremely costly to repair and put right the damage caused.

In addition, an empty property can also increase the chances of you becoming a victim of property fraud, this may be when your property address is used to obtain finance in the form of loans or credit cards, or in extreme cases, fraudsters claiming ownership of an empty property and raising funds through mortgaging or selling the property. 

The Empty Homes Programme

We are able to remove the hassle of refurbishing your home by renovating the property for you.  We will enter into a lease agreement with you, refurbish your property and use rental income from letting the property to repay the renovation costs.  We will be responsible for the ongoing repairs and maintenance of your home and at the end of the lease; you get your property back in good condition.

The Deposit Bond Scheme

We can help you identify what works are required on the property and give you an idea of the cost involved.  We can then help you become landlords and rent your property through our deposit bond scheme.

Enforcement

Once all other options have been tried, we do have a range of enforcement powers we can use to bring your property back into a good state of repair and back into use:

Enforcement notices

These can be issued under a number of Acts of Parliament to either secure your property or carry out repair work. If notices are not complied with, we can do the work ourselves and charge you.

Enforced sale

If debts arise on your property through non-payment of works we have carried out due to non-compliance of enforcement notices or due to large unpaid Council Tax bills, we can apply to the courts for permission to sell your property and recover our costs from the sale.

Empty Dwelling Management Order

This allows us to take enforced management of your property to bring it back into use and recover our costs by renting your property out.  

Compulsory Purchase Order

If a property is causing severe issues and the owner has not wanted to resolve the problems, either independently or with our help, we can force the sale of the property.

Contact

Private Sector Housing
Northampton Borough Council
Guildhall, St Giles' Square
Northampton, NN1 1DE

E-mail: pshs@northampton.gov.uk

Telephone: 01604 838585