Making Empty Properties Into Homes
Latest figures suggest there are around 23,000 empty homes in Wales. Some of these properties could provide homes to people who need them. Empty properties create eyesores that are a target for nuisance and anti-social behaviour. They also deny homes to those in housing need and increase pressure for new affordable home development on greenfield sites.
Moreover, they represent a huge cost to the Local Authority due to lost council tax and can be a resource burden to Public Health & Protection, Building Control, Fire Authority and Police Authority.
In Rhondda Cynon Taf there were 2785 privately owned empty homes as of April 2015 (counted in accordance with Welsh Government guidelines for PSR/004). This number does not include short term transitional empty homes, empty second homes, empty homes being converted or modernised. In 2015-16, 144 empty homes were bought back into use through enforcement action, loans or advice.
Advice for Owners of Empty Homes
There are many options available to you:
Interest free loans are available through the Welsh 'Houses into Homes' Scheme. Borrow up to £25,000 per property (max £150,000 per applicant) to renovate your empty property for sale or rent. Contact the Empty Homes Officer for more details or visit the Welsh Government Houses into Homes Website.
Grants will soon be available for residents who wish to renovate a long term empty property for their own occupation. Residents will have to live in the property for a minimum of 5 years or they will have to pay back the grant. See here for details.
If you need a builder, look for one that has been approved by an organisation like the Federation of Master Builders. Building works on an empty property are subject to reduced VAT of 5% or 0% depending on how long the property has been empty. See here for details.
If you can not afford the repair work, or it is difficult to organise (because you live a long way away for instance), you may want to think about selling to a builder or developer at a lower price.
You can sell through an estate agent, at an auction, or by advertising the property yourself. Get your property valued by a professional property surveyor or estate agent. Set an asking price, but decide how flexible you will be as potential buyers may try to negotiate the price. Be realistic with your asking price if the property requires a lot of renovation work.
The Empty Homes Officer holds a list of developers who would like to buy empty properties and can pass on your details if you wish.
If your home is ready to move into, you can rent it out. Typically a three bed property in RCT would attract a weekly rental income between £103 and £126. Renting through an agency can take out some of the hassle and responsibility, although you have to pay for the service. For information on becoming a landlord see Private Landlords Information and Advice.
We may be able to help you agree a lease, or 'lease and repair' contract with a housing association. The housing association can lease your property for five years or more; they can do some repairs, find a suitable tenant, collect the rent and manage the tenancy. You may get a proportion of the rent money depending on the work that the association has done, and the length of the lease. At the end of the contract you will get the property back in a good condition.
What if you leave it empty?
You must keep your property and the land around it in good condition. It is advisable to make it look occupied to deter criminals and anti-social behaviour. We can advise you about selling, renting and refurbishing the property, but if the property becomes derelict or a nuisance to neighbours we can take legal action to make you put it right.
If we have to carry out emergency work and you do not pay the bill or you do not pay council tax we can even force the sale of your property. New legislation in Wales now allows the Council to charge a 100% Council Tax Premium on properties empty for over 2 years, meaning your bill could rise from £513 to £2052 per annum (for a Band A property). Clearly, it is not in your interest to keep your property long term unoccupied.
Advice for Neighbours and others interested in Empty properties
If you are trying to find out who owns an empty property details can be obtained from the public register at The Land Registry for Wales or contact 01792 355000.
If you would like to buy an empty property or wish to be contacted when someone wants to sell their empty property, please ring the office (details below) and give your details to the Empty Homes Officer.
For Further Information
If you have concerns in respect of an empty property or require further advice or information please use the contact information below.
Tel: 01443 425478
Fax: 01443 425301
Or by writing to:
Public Health and Protection
Dinas Isaf East