There are many definitions of an empty home.
Council Tax legislation counts a property as a long-term empty home when it has been empty of people, furniture and/or possessions for six months or more.
Since April 2019, if a property remains empty for more than two years, an Empty Homes Premium is applied. This means that additional Council Tax will be payable.
This is the definition Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils will use to identify and target action against empty properties:
- A long-term empty home is also defined as a property that has been unoccupied for six months or longer and has nobody occupying it on a regular basis - whether it is furnished or not.
Action in appropriate circumstances will be enforced under the appropriate legislation.
Dealing with empty properties
Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils have a range of options available for dealing with empty homes.
Where an empty property is causing a statutory nuisance and affecting neighbouring houses, we will make use of current legislation to minimise any nuisance. This may include securing the property or carrying out works in default to rectify disrepair that is affecting neighbouring properties. This could be where the property is a dangerous structure, or where there is a broken sewer
Where a property has been identified as empty for longer than six months, we will contact the owner in order to establish their intention on returning the property to use. We will offer advice and assistance (including details of our Empty Home Loan scheme) and ask what they plan to do with the house. At this stage, we will offer advice and assistance to help the owner return the property back into use
Where an owner does not respond, engage or does not appear to be taking steps to return a property to use, we will consider the following options to ensure the property is returned to use:
Once a statutory notice has been served, if the Councils have to spend money in default to rectify an issue at the property - which is not paid for by the owner - we will consider forcing a sale of the property to recover our costs.
We will consider the compulsory purchase of a property when we are satisfied that the house is in a poor state of repair, is unlikely to be brought back into use by the owner, and a clear public benefit would be achieved by its sale.
Clear public benefits would include:
- provision of affordable housing
- improving the appearance of the neighbourhood
- reducing anti-social behaviour
- Where contact has been made with an owner of a property that is in a very poor state of repair, we will consider purchasing the property
- A property that has been purchased voluntarily may be sold on to a housing association or developer, with an agreement that the property is brought back into use within an agreed period of time
- The use of voluntary purchase will only be used where all other enforcement action is deemed unsuitable or not cost effective