Empty properties in the Craven area

When properties lie empty, they can cause problems. Find out how to deal with them, how to report one and what we are doing to help owners.

Vacant properties can often have a seriously damaging effect on the condition and value of adjoining properties and on the local community.

Usually, the longer properties remain empty, the greater their disrepair and risk of vandalism.

An empty property can also cost the owner a significant amount of money owing to the following problems:

  • property deterioration and on-going maintenance costs
  • expensive insurance
  • loss of income from either renting out or selling the property
  • the owner may be liable for costs incurred by the council in removing rubbish and preventing unlawful entry

It is estimated that leaving a home empty can cost in the region of £7,000 per year, just in terms of insurance, maintenance, council tax and the loss of potential income. 

How to bring your empty property back into use

There are a number of ways to bring your empty home back into use. 

You can:

  • sell it - an empty property can be attractive for many buyers as there may be no upward chain
  • rent it out - there has been an immense increase in demand from people wanting to rent property in recent years
  • renovate it - you may need to refurbish or repair the property before you can sell it or rent it out and there is a reduced VAT rate for the cost of renovating an empty property that's been empty for two years or more - you can pay just five per cent instead of 20 per cent (find out more on the Government website)
  • if you cannot afford the work to renovate, or it is difficult to organise, for example, because you live a long way away, think about selling to a builder or developer at a lower price

If your property remains empty

Although we have various statutory powers to deal with empty homes, we are keen to encourage owners to re-let or re-occupy them without the worry of enforcement action. However, in certain circumstances we may have to use enforcement action to ensure that empty homes are brought back into use.

Empty homes represent a wasted housing resource devaluing and damaging neighbouring properties. Having an empty home that is in a deteriorating condition adjoining your home could result in damage to your property. For example, empty homes are not heated and this could result in dampness along the party wall.

List of empty properties

We are often asked if we can provide the public with lists of empty properties or the contact details for owners to help them identify properties to purchase. This information is subject to data protection restrictions but you may be able to obtain information yourself through the following means:

  • searching for individual properties on the Government land registry website (a small fee applies)
  • posting a note through the door of the empty property explaining what your interest is and asking them to contact you to discuss it
  • contact us - we may have contact details for the owner of the property you are interested in and we may be able to notify them of your interest

Empty property VAT exemptions

The Government introduced new reliefs on Value Added Tax from 1 January 2008, including:

  • a reduction in value added tax from 17.5 per cent to five per cent on costs of renovating single house dwellings that have been empty for three years
  • zero rating the sale of renovated buildings that have not been used for residential purposes for at least ten years

The rate has also been cut on other urban regeneration measures and projects, including costs of converting housing into flats or bedsits or vice versa. In the past, developers have been deterred from conversion work and refurbishing empty properties because value added tax meant they could not recover their costs. 

How does Value Added Tax affect empty properties?

It affects properties in various ways, including the following:

  • a developer or house owner can claim back all the Value Added Tax charged on the renovation of a building that has been empty for ten years
  • the developer will have to register for Value Added Tax and sell the house to claim the Value Added Tax - this relief is not applicable where a property is put to let
  • the house owner can make a claim for the Value Added Tax under the Do It Yourself Builders Refund Scheme available from Customs and Excise if they are retaining the property for private residential use and not selling it
  • a builder can charge a reduced five per cent rate of Value Added Tax on work to renovate a house that has been empty for two years

How can our empty homes officer help?

The officer can help by:

  • confirming that a property has been empty for ten years (zero rated sales)
  • confirming that a building has been empty for three years (reduced rate for building services)

What do empty property officers need to do?

They need to write an official letter to the developer or house owner with relevant details, confirming:

  • that the property was empty
  • the date the property was last occupied
  • the address of the property

This is the developer's or house owner's evidence if customs need to check. Customs and Excise will accept this proof that the building was empty.

What other information will Customs and Excise accept as indicators that the building was empty?

Customs and Excise will accept:

  • electoral roll or Council Tax data
  • information from utilities companies

What do Customs and Excise mean by an empty property?

They mean that no part of the property has been lived in during the last three years (reduced rate) or ten years (zero rate).

Use for storage can be ignored.

Illegal occupation by squatters can be ignored.

Where can I get more information?

You can phone the Customs and Excise national advice service on 0845010 9000.

Or you can find further information online, including: