When properties stay empty longer than six months without any obvious signs of renovation or rental they may be classed as 'empty homes'.

We may be able to offer owners of empty properties some help with a low cost loan, to help bring the property back into use.

Why are homes left empty?

The most common reasons for homes becoming empty are because the previous occupant has:

  • Passed away;
  • Moved to a hospital, nursing home or residential care;
  • Been evicted or had their property repossessed;
  • Been unable to rent the property due to maintenance or value issues.

Homes may be left empty for many different reason.  This area is a part of the country where housing is in short supply. The Council is keen to work with owners to try to bring as many empty homes as possible back in to use. 


Why are empty homes a problem?

Empty homes cost their owners money in council tax, insurance, repairs and security but don't produce an income. Keeping a home empty can cost £10,000 a year (including lost rental income).

Empty properties can cause other problems, such as:

  • The condition of the house deteriorates further;
  • It could be targeted by vandals, arsonists, squatters and fly-tippers; 
  • It can attract vermin;
  • The value of neighbouring properties may be reduced by up to 10%.

By bringing an empty home back into use the risk of vandalism and squatters is reduced. It also improves the look and feel of the neighbourhood and generates income for both the owner and the Council. 

Most importantly, housing is in short supply in our area, and bringing empty homes back into use means more people can find a home here.


What can you do if you see an empty home?

Please telephone or email us to tell us about empty homes.  We need to know the address of the property, and any information you can provide about ownership.

You can email housing.advice@swdevon.gov.uk or call us on the number below:

01822 813600


Can I get financial help to bring an empty property back into use?

If you own a property that has been empty for more than six months, and it needs works to bring it to a Decent Homes Standard, we may be able to help you with a low cost loan. This can help to bring the property back into use for onward sale or for rent.

Loans are subject to a financial assessment.

See the Icon for pdf Loan fund assistance for empty properties document [159.93KB] from our Private Sector Housing Renewals Policy for more information. 


Charity Empty Homes Schemes

Some charities and Registered Providers (Housing Associations) offer a Lease and Repair Scheme. This provides owners with a no-cost solution in order to renovate their property in return for leasing it.

The property is renovated free of charge and is then professionally managed and maintained for the duration of the lease. It is then returned to the owner at the end of the lease period in good condition, ready for sale or letting. 

You can contact charities and Registered Providers directly about this option.


Enforcement action

In some cases Enforcement Action under the Housing Act 2004 may also be necessary, to resolve a long-term empty property if it has become a problem. There is legislation under the following which allows us to do this:

  • Town and Country Planning Act 1990: Section 215
  • Part 4 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014
  • Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions Act 1982: Section 29

Enforcement Action is a last resort, when all other avenues have been exhausted.