Empty Homes Strategy
Empty homes in the city
Our Empty Homes Strategy 2021-26 explains how we will address the issue of empty homes in the city.
We work with owners of empty, private sector, properties to see them brought back into use. Our aim is to help and persuade owners to bring their empty home back into use without the need to take enforcement action, however appropriate enforcement tools will be used where necessary.
Long-term empty homes:
- are more at risk of crime and antisocial behaviour and put greater demand on emergency services, such as the Police and Fire and Rescue Service
- put adjoining properties at risk of damage
- can bring a sense of decay and decline to a neighbourhood and may make an area less inviting to tenants, property owners and investors
- are a waste of accommodation at a time of high housing demand.
What is a long-term empty home?
We consider a ‘long-term empty home’ to be a privately owned, residential property that has been vacant for 6 months or more.
The team does not deal issues caused by the following properties:
- properties owned by housing associations and other registered providers
- properties that have been empty for under 6 months
- commercial premises – although we may help owners wanting to convert long-term empty premises in residential accommodation
- properties where the owner may work away from home for a number of months at a time, for example, whilst serving in the armed forces.
Support for owners of long-term empty homes
The Empty Homes team can help in the following ways:
- Advice and guidance on the options available and on becoming a landlord.
- Refer you to other Council services, such as planning, housing standards, council tax, pest control, tree management and parking permits.
- Help you find a tenant through the Derby Homes Private Sector team.
- Help you find a housing association that may be interested in leasing the property from you. The provider will take on all management responsibilities whilst you receive a guaranteed monthly income for a set number of years.
- Help you find an agent to let or sell your property.
- Provide you with a letter to help with your VAT reclaim to HMRC.
- The Council may be interested in purchasing the property from you directly.
- Help you find ‘probate’ specialists where the owner has died intestate.
- Consider a loan to help with the cost of refurbishment – this is called ‘Empty Homes Assistance’.
What is Empty Homes Assistance?
This is an interest free loan available to help new or existing owners of empty homes to pay for the cost of refurbishment.
Loan amounts are dependent on the equity in the property and the extent of the required renovations. The current maximum loan offered is £20,000. Repayments typically start six months after the money is given and the interest rate stays at 0%, subject to terms and conditions. Repayments are made by monthly direct debit.
Empty Homes Assistance requires a charge, equal to the loan amount, to be placed on the property, in much the same way as a mortgage. Failing to comply with the conditions of the loan and late payments can make extra charges payable.
Contact us for more information on the current availability of this loan, and further details of terms and conditions. The Council will not offer a loan where the owner already owes debts to the Council, such as council tax arrears or where Housing Standards have served an improvement notice or prohibition order.
Buying and renovating an empty home
Can you afford to buy and renovate an empty home?
Many of our empty home owners are renovating in their spare time, in the evening and at weekends. Often projects take longer than anticipated because of issues that have not been considered. The Empty Homes team recommends always having a detailed survey done before agreeing any price. Remember, the longer a project takes, the more expensive it will be so calculate your costs over the time it will take you to complete the project, not just the initial purchase.
Consider carefully what the realistic price is that you can pay for the property you are interested in, when you have considered all the relevant following factors:
- The purchase price and realistic budget available.
- Cost of the work to be done – materials and labour.
- Legal fees.
- Mortgage interest rates and mortgage set up fees.
- Land charge searches.
- Property registration fees.
- Surveyor fees.
- Installation or reconnection of utilities.
- Stamp duty land tax.
- Architect fees.
- Planning consultant fees.
- Planning application fees.
- Building Control application fees.
- Add in an amount for contingencies, an additional 10% for example.
- Council Tax – find out the council tax band and length of time empty.
Council Tax on empty homes
Full council tax liability is charged for empty homes, even if they are uninhabitable and in need of renovation.
Properties that have been empty for 2 years or more will also incur an ‘Empty Homes Premium’. This starts at an additional 100% liability, so in effect, the council tax bill doubles. After 5 years an additional premium of 200% is applied and after 10 years, an additional 300%. So, if the property you are buying has been empty for over 10 years, your annual bill will be 4 times higher that the standard charge for that property. The ‘empty date’ is calculated from the date the property became empty not from the date of purchase.
Council tax is a statutory liability and cannot be negotiated. It is also an ongoing cost and can be overlooked by owners when calculating how much they need to buy and renovate a property. Council tax is still charged when you are waiting for planning permission or building regulation approval. So, the length of time a project takes will affect your overall budget.
As soon as the property becomes occupied, notify the Council Tax team, otherwise you could be over charged. Even if you are the landlord of a House of Multiple Occupation, and remain liable for council tax, let the council know the property is occupied.
What enforcement options does the Council have?
Most empty home owners are working towards bringing those properties into use.
Where owners are unwilling or unable to do so, the Council can consider for enforcement action for properties that are causing or attracting problems or where they would otherwise remain empty, even if they are not causing a nuisance.
Where there are environmental, blight or drainage issues, the Council can serve notice requiring the owner to take action. If owners fail to do this, the Council may be able to consider carrying out the work in default and invoicing the owner for the cost of the work. If owners fail to pay the invoice the Council can enforce sale of the property to recover its costs.
Where options to reach a voluntary agreement with the owner of an empty home have been exhausted we use enforcement tools that will dispossess the owner of that property. There are several options available to us, including:
- compulsory purchase - this is where we acquire a property from an owner, even if they don't give their consent
- enforced sale - this allows the sale of an empty property to be forced to recover debts that are owed to us
- Empty Dwelling Management Order - this is a legal measure that allows us to take over an empty property on a temporary basis to have it renovated and reoccupied.
How can I report an empty home in my area?
If you are concerned about an empty property in your area, then use the online form to report it to the team. If you contact us we will treat your personal information in confidence and in accordance with our privacy notice.
Do not use this form to report:
- properties owned by the Council, Derby Homes or any other housing association
- commercial premises
- properties empty for under 6 months
- that you or your tenants have moved out – contact Council Tax
Frequently asked Freedom of Information Requests
Lists of empty homes - the Empty Homes team receives requests for lists of empty homes in our area. Due to a ruling by the Information Commissioner, we cannot release this information and any request will be refused.
Contact details for the owner of an empty home – we cannot provide this information. If the property is registered at the Land Registry you may be able to find information on their public register. Instead visit the GOV.UK website.
Number of empty homes – this is already in the public domain and responses to requests will advise you to visit the GOV.UK website.