Empty Homes

Empty Homes

With many homes throughout the UK unoccupied, it’s almost unbelievable that we also claim to be in the middle of a housing crisis. According to the government there are as many as 610,123 empty properties in England, whereby 205,821 have been empty for at least six months. Scotland has 31,884 long term empty properties and for Wales, 23,171 remain empty. Specifically to Cardiff “At any one time there are around 1450 homes sitting empty in Cardiff”. Therefore, this conflict poses the ultimate housing question, why would someone own a property and then leave it vacant?

An example of this dilemma is the Bezier building in London, a recognisable building in the shape of sails, as well as being known as one of the most sought after areas of the UK. The apartments here are over one million and monthly rents of £2000 are more than achievable. More than five years after the completion of this development it’s discovered that almost half remain empty. The Local Authorities are putting it down to a new pattern forming, known as ‘Buy to Leave’ where wealthy overseas investors purchase property and then leave it empty.

Property Expert, Henry Pryor, expands on this saying that “Investors leaving flats empty are in fact highly calculating. The costs of letting, including wear and tear and administration, can outweigh any money taken from the rent.” In addition, some believe that the cash-rich buyers pay for the top end apartments and want to keep them in pristine condition for their second home. They pay more for the high end properties so that they remain ‘unlived’ in and ‘unspoilt’.

However, ‘Buy to Leave’, is centred to London and only covers a small portion of empty homes, another reason that contributes to this issue is the owner’s finances. This covers people that can’t sell their homes, or are unable to fund a refurbishment of a property so that it’s rentable. This also applies to people that have property from inheritance, these often remain empty if they haven’t any disposable income to maintain a property, or often it can take years for the beneficiaries to decide what to do with it.

It may seem like leaving a home empty is advantageous if your cash flow is low, however there can be some consequences to this. They can become a magnet for fly-tippers which attracts further unwanted attention. And whilst social housing do their upmost to ensure these types of situations don’t happen, they can’t always be avoided. As a result, there are some areas where whole streets become empty and the area becomes less desirable. A recent example of this that hit headlines was in Liverpool, where the council were selling derelict house for £1 each to encourage regeneration in those specific areas.

So, what is being done to target this issue?

Local Authorities have the power to obtain a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPOs) on empty homes, as well as powers to take over the land/house. The main use of this power is to obtain land for housing, but can also apply to filling empty houses. Another avenue is to enforce sales procedures, the local authority can enforce charges against a property for council tax debts etc. The local authorities can also order to make a property safe and fit for purpose, by either enforcing the terms upon the landlord or take action themselves. There are also Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMO) that can be used to ensure an empty property is used for housing. The property must have been empty for more than two years and not be on the market to let or sell. The local authority then takes the position of the landlord, whereby they bring the property to up to standard but they do not have ownership.

The National Housing Federation estimates 974,000 homes needed to be built between 2011 and 2014, but that figures from 326 councils showed only 457,490 were completed. This only further stresses the importance to utilise the empty homes we already have along with the continued construction of new-builds. To help, the government offers councils the same financial rewards for bringing empty homes back into use as it does for building new ones. Therefore these two matters need to be addressed and actioned, hand–in-hand so that the properties can be used as homes before assets.

If you have a property in Cardiff or the surrounding area, that is unoccupied and you would like professional advice with the sale or let of the property, please don’t hesitate to give us a call. 0292048900 | executive@keylet.co.uk | www.keylet.co.uk

Published: December 14, 2015