Empty buildings often become a target for crime, vandalism, rodents, fly tipping and squatters, as well as de-valuing the neighbouring properties.
Informal action includes, talking to the owners and informing them of empty property grants and giving advice and information on what can be done. If formal action is needed, then there is a wide range of enforcement action available, such as Compulsory Purchase Orders.
Empty Property Grants
Empty Property Grants are available to help with the cost of bringing properties, which have been empty for more than one year, back to use. The properties must be available for letting for a period of five years after the work is complete, and the owner/s must sign an agreement to this affect. It is no longer a requirement to let the properties to the council.
The grant can be used for most works to make the property suitable for occupation, self-containment works, works required to make bed-sits and providing additional amenities and fire precautions. The amount of grant available is 50% of the cost of the work up to £10,000 per dwelling.
An application form must be completed and returned, signed by the owner/s, showing proof of ownership, two itemised building estimates, planning approval if required and building regulations must be followed. From the date of approval, a year is given to finish the works after which, the works are checked along with gas and electrical certificates. If the works are up to a decent standard, then the money is then refunded to the owner. It is important to note that work to the property cannot begin until the grant has been approved.
How to apply for a grant
Empty Property owners who would like to discus all options available to them can contact the Private Sector Housing Team using the contact details on the right.
I own an Empty Property
There are four main options available to owners of empty properties:
Sell your property
Before deciding to sell it is important to look realistically at what the house could go for in the current climate. Local house prices will only provide a rough guide.
Estate Agents - Estate Agents usually charge a fee, however they are able to market properties to many potential buyers.
Auction Sale - Auction Houses offer a more limited service and the properties are normally placed in catalogues. Auctions are a very good way of releasing any capital that you have tied up within the property as they are usually sold on the day, with a non-refundable deposit.
Renovate your property
If you have no experience in renovating property, then it is advisable to contact a qualified chartered surveyor who could advise you on the works that need to be carried out and the likely cost. You may also be eligible for an Empty Property Grant.
Building Control - Most works require building approval, so it is important to contact them prior to starting works, as it can be expensive and time consuming if works need to be re-done. See the Building Control page for more information.
Planning Permission - It is important to contact our Planning Team to check whether consent is needed to carry out works to your property. Enforcement action can be taken if permission has not been granted, and this often requires works to be demolished. See the Planning section for more information.
Rent your property
If you decide to rent your empty property, you need to decide if you want to become the landlord or rent it through a managing agent. If you choose to be the landlord you would be responsible for carrying out and arranging all maintenance and carrying out duties such as arranging gas safety checks.
If you want to let to a managing agent, then it is advisable to check the Association of Residential Managing Agents website.
Where an owner is not cooperating with the council and has either no intention of bringing the empty property back to use and/or it is causing a nuisance to the neighbours, the council has the following options:
Empty Dwelling Management Orders
Hackney Council can take over the management of an empty property on a temporary basis because an owner is unwilling or unable to manage it themselves. The council act as the manager, taking all costs from the rent and any remaining money is passed onto the owner.
Compulsory Purchase Orders
A CPO can be made when the owner of an empty property has no plans for bringing the property back into use, and the council have tried every other option of getting the property back to use, but have been unsuccessful. The Council must then take legal action which will result in the council taking ownership of the property. The property must then be sold onto a Registered Social Landlord, and the owner will be given the best market price.
Enforced Sales Procedures
If there is money owed to the council, (through a statutory notice issued) this can be registered as a charge on the property, and then the property can be sold through auction.
Town and Country Planning Act Section 215 - requires the powers of unsightly empty properties to tidy them up when they affect the amenity of an area.
Building Act 1984 - forces property owners to demolish or repair seriously dilapidated buildings
Environmental Protection Act 1990 - requires owners to carry out repairs to properties which are prejudicial to health or causing a nuisance to neighbours
Prevention of Damage of Pests Act 1949 - requires owners to destroy rats or mice and keep their land free from them
Housing Act 2004 - provides powers to have property repaired or managed by the council.
An empty property is causing me problems - what can I do?
Report the empty homes, providing details of the nuisance and address of the property and any other details you have, it will then be investigated. It maybe that the owner has to be traced and then works carried out, or if the owner cannot be found, it is possible for Hackney Council to do the works and then place a charge on the property.
Page updated: 12 Jan 2015