What’s an empty property? 

An empty property is any property which is not occupied the majority of the time. According to Shelter there are some 322,386 homes that are vacant on a long-term basis, having been empty for more than six months. Empty properties are frowned upon and actively discouraged by councils and the general community because of the activity they might invite into a neighbourhood, such as vandalism and squatting. There are lots of reasons why a property might be empty, for example:
  • The property owners couldn’t sell before immigrating
  • A large refurbishment is underway
  • It’s an inherited property and the owner lives in their own home
  • It’s an inherited property and Probate has not been granted
  • The property is caught in a legal dispute
  • The owner doesn’t have the money to carry out work required to make the house livable,
  • The elderly homeowner is in a care home

Do you have to pay council tax on an empty property?

Empty properties are liable for the same council tax as occupied properties in most cases. In fact, if your property is empty for over two years, some councils will DOUBLE the rate as a deterrent.

What should I do if I have an empty property?

There’s an awful lot to consider if you own a property which is going to be empty for a while. Keeping your property secure is the first thing to tackle.

Empty property security

You could:

Let a neighbour park on your drive

As the bible states; “Let thy neighbour park on thy drive” right? OK, perhaps not, but loving your neighbour COULD be a great low-cost way to ensure the security of your empty property.
Allowing a neighbour to park on your drive makes a property looked ‘lived in’. Even if it’s apparent they don’t live there, the simple act of your neighbour parking on your drive may deter would-be burglars or vandals, because there’s no guarantee that they won’t pull up at any given moment – just like with an occupied property.
It might help out a neighbour with an excess of vehicles in their household, and it would help you hugely in securing your empty property.

Re-Direct your mail

There’s no surer way to advertise an unoccupied property than to allow mail to pile up.
Did you know you can pay for a redirect service from Royal Mail? Hop on their website to ensure that any mail from your empty property is delivered to a different address, so you can stay on top of everything AND guard against any security issues that come with an obviously empty property.
You can redirect your mail with Royal Mail here.
And consider a sticker to deter junk mail for the same reason.

Ensure the garden is maintained

Overgrown gardens are like an open invite to Burglars, vandals and squatters. They say “Hey, I’m empty, there’s no one here to worry about”.
You don’t have to keep the lawn like a cricket pitch, but ensuring that the basics are maintained will help you to avoid advertising a property’s empty status to passers-by. 
It’s a bit like insurance; if you can’t maintain the garden for any reason, a gardener once every fortnight is going to be a lot cheaper than removing squatters if it ever came to that.

Put a timer on the lights

Another really cost-effective way of securing your empty property is to try and make it looked ‘lived-in’ by using lights on timers which are set to come on and off at various points during the day.

Other ways to secure your empty property.

Here Joanne discusses the new trend for live-in guardians; a short term tenant who will deter squatters and vandals, whilst also bringing you an income on the property.

We particularly like this company who work with volunteers in a real community-centred guardian programme. What great work!

Empty property insurance

Even if you have insurance on your empty property, it’s important to get this bit right. Most insurers consider a property empty if it’s unoccupied for 30 days or more, meaning a claim after the 30 days could be deemed void if it’s only covered by the standard insurance.

You should look for specialist insurance if the home will be empty for a longer period of time, with F.L.E.A cover.

Ensure you check the terms, as some insurers request that the Gas, Electricity and Water are all disconnected in order to insure an empty property.

What is F.L.E.A insurance?

FLEA cover stands for FIRE, LIGHTNING, EXPLOSION, EARTHQUAKE and AIRCRAFT, and is a specialist insurance cover for empty properties.

If you are covered for FLEA only, nothing else will be covered. BUT, you will have some peace of mind for natural disasters.

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