Many people in Cheshire East need homes. Land to build new houses is scarce, so reusing empty homes is a good source of housing.
The reason homes are left empty
A significant number of empty homes are 'transactional' empty homes - that is, they are being refurbished, or on the market for sale or to let, or are part of a person's estate that is being finalised. These will often come back into use as a matter of course without the need for any intervention.
There are other empty homes where the owner is unable to bring the home back into use without some help. This might be because they don't have the time, or the knowledge, or the money to do whatever is necessary to bring the home back into use. We want to support these owners to bring homes back into use, where they are struggling to do this on their own.
There are owners who have abandoned the property, or who have no intention of doing anything with the property. Occasionally people have bought these properties as an investment and are leaving it empty until the property market improves. People may have moved away from the area and it is a case of "out of sight, out of mind". We want to encourage owners to bring the home back into use, but where they continue to leave the property empty without good reason, we will use legal powers available to us.
Council interest in empty homes
We have a strategic responsibility for housing in our area, ensuring that everyone has access to an affordable, decent and appropriate home. We want our neighbourhoods to be attractive places to live for everyone. Empty homes often fall into disrepair and can cause problems for immediate neighbours and the wider community as they can attract anti social behaviour such as vandalism, fly-tipping, squatting and arson attacks.
Getting your empty home back into use
There are a few options available to you:
Sell the property
You can either sell the property privately, or through an estate agent. Estate agents charge a fee for their service, but are more likely to achieve greater coverage in marketing the property for you, and can provide information and advice about the selling process.
Some social housing providers may also be interested in buying your property, particularly if its on an estate that they manage.
Let the property to tenants
You can either let the property privately, or through a recognised letting agent. The Private Sector Liaison Officers in our Housing Options team are always looking for landlords who are prepared to let their properties to people in housing need. If you do decide to let your property, it must reach a minimum standard; visit our pages about privately rented housing for more information.
We have compiled a list of letting agents and property management companies operating in Cheshire East as suggestions of companies that can assist you to let your property out. Download our 'Breathing Life into Empty Homes' services list (PDF, 256KB) for more information.
Lease your property through a property management company
Another solution is to enter into a longer term lease with a property management company. For example, a company would lease the property from you for an agreed period of time, for example 3 or 5 years, and sub-let it to a tenant. You will receive a guaranteed rental income (which is likely to be lower than the income you would get if you let the property yourself), but the management company takes on the responsibility for tenant damage to the property, and still pay the agreed rent to you between tenancies.
Some companies also provide finance to carry out any repairs to the property to make it ready for a tenant to move in - more details can be found in the 'Breathing Life into Empty Homes' services list above.
Improve the property
Make sure you use reputable tradespeople to carry out the work; we recommend getting three quotes and taking up references where possible. The Buy with Confidence scheme offers details of contractors who have undergone checks by Trading Standards. Certain types of work require building regulations approval, or must be carried out by a contractor on a competent persons' scheme, including gas, electrics, and windows and doors.
We offer loans of up to £20,000 to repair or improve empty properties. If you are intending to let it to a tenant, or enter into a longer term leasing arrangement with a property management company, you can apply. To find out more, please visit the Empty Homes Loan page.
Our enforcement powers
Where people needlessly leave homes empty and we have exhausted all options to bring the house back into use with the owner, we have a range of enforcement powers available to us:
- compulsory purchase orders can be used to buy the property, which we will then sell or lease to a housing partner, or sell on the open market
- empty dwelling management orders enable us to take over the management of the property, which we would do in partnership with a housing provider and let it to someone in housing need
- the sale of the property can be forced where the owner has an outstanding debt to us, for example unpaid Council Tax or where we have had to carry out emergency repairs or boarding up to secure the property
- enforcement notices to carry out repairs or secure the property, under a number of Acts of Parliament
Buying an empty home
If you have seen an empty home that you are interested in buying, you can find out who the owner is by carrying out a 'Find a property' search on the Land Registry website. There is a small fee to pay for this. If you are unable to find the current owner from the Land Registry information, you can contact the Housing Standards and Adaptations team, who will try to contact the owner on your behalf to let them know that you are interested in purchasing their property. Data protection restrictions prevent us from revealing owners' details directly to you.
Reporting an empty home
If you want to report an empty home that is causing a problem near you, please complete our 'Report an Empty Home' online form.
If you own an empty home, and want information and advice about how to bring it back into use, please contact the Housing Standards and Adaptations team.
Empty Homes is an independent charity, and provides useful information about bringing empty homes back into use.
Local authorities in Kent have developed a useful website No Use Empty which provides a wide range of useful information.
The Department for Communities and Local Government, together with the Ministry of Justice, have published an advice guide on dealing with squatters on their website.