Unoccupied Property FAQs

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Unoccupied FAQs

Questions on a notepadDo I pay council tax on unoccupied property?

Do I need to pay capital gains tax on inherited property?

What is an empty dwelling management order?

How long can you leave your house unoccupied?

How do I evict squatters from my empty home?

What does asbestos look like?

How do I make it look like someone is home?

Do I pay council tax on unoccupied property?

Your local Council have control over whether you pay full rate Council tax or whether you are eligible for a discount or full exemption. In some cases, you might pay up to 50% less council tax for the first 2 years that your home is empty. You will need to let the Council know that the property is empty to apply for the discount. However, once your property has been empty and unfurnished for two years, your Council will start to charge up to 50% more.

If the property is under probate and you are selling it on behalf of the deceased person’s estate then you will be exempt from Council tax charges for the first 6 months after you get probate.

Some homes are fully exempt from Council tax charges until a resident moves in, such as:

  • If the resident is in the Armed Forces
  • If the resident is in prison
  • If the resident is in a care home or hospital
  • If the home has been repossessed by the mortgage lender
  • If the property is derelict and scheduled for demolition

Do I need to pay capital gains tax on inherited property?

When you inherit a property from a deceased loved one, you inherit it at the market value of the house at the time of death.

If you keep the inherited property as well as your own main home you will have two years to tell HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) which of the two homes is your main home.

The non-main home will then become liable for capital gains tax payment. It’s a good idea to nominate your main home as the one that you think will gain the most value.

If you sell the inherited house without having moved into it, the capital gains tax will be based on the difference in value between the inherited value and the sale value, less selling costs.

What is an empty dwelling management order?

Introduced by the UK Government in 2006, the Empty Dwelling Management Order (EDMO) process was originally intended to be used by local Councils to empower them to purchase long term empty homes from the owners and subsequently rent the homes out to tenants.

The property has to have been empty for more than two years and be causing a nuisance to the local community, because it’s derelict and encouraging vandalism or other property crime in the area.

Once an initial EDMO has been applied for by the local Council, the owner of the empty property and the Council have 12 months to try to negotiate an amicable solution. If this fails, the Council can then apply for a final EDMO after which steps are then taken to buy the property and put the empty home back into use. Generally, the property owner and the local Council can make arrangements in the interim phase, avoiding the need for a final EDMO.

How long can you leave your house unoccupied?

If you know in advance that you are going away and you have some time to prepare for leaving the home empty, then there’s no limit to how long you can leave your house unoccupied.

Before you leave, you should take some steps to ensure the property is well maintained and secure and to make it appear as though someone is at home.

Then, when the property is ready, find an insurance policy which covers long term empty homes. Most unoccupied home insurance providers will have a requirement relating to the property being checked regularly by a nominated friend or neighbour so that if damage does occur it’s reported and fixed quickly. Normally theft, accidental damage and damage caused by vandalism will be excluded from the cover too. HomeProtect provides access to online quotes for empty home insurance.

If you leave home unexpectedly, for example if you are taken into a care home or you move in with a relative to care for them, you can still protect your empty home. Take as many of the property preparation steps as possible from afar to prevent arson, squatters, looting etc. Then check your current home insurance policy – if your policy only covers up to 30 days unoccupied make sure you search for alternative insurance arrangements with a provider who will cover long term unoccupied homes and switch to the new insurer, then cancel the previous policy.

How do I evict squatters from my empty home?

Squatters are people who are “living” in your property with no right to do so, they are trespassing on your property. You will obviously want to evict them from your property as quickly as possible.

Unfortunately squatters tend to change the locks when they move in and stay in the property all the time so that you will have very little or no opportunity to get into the property to secure it with new locks.

The best approach is to get legal advice from a solicitor immediately, as you may need to take the matter to court for a possession order to be issued so that the eviction can legally take place.

What does asbestos look like?

asbestos in empty homesAsbestos fibres look like loose cotton wool fibres. It’s most commonly a blue grey colour, but can also be brown or white. It is most commonly found under floorboards, in attics and in cavity wall spaces.

It was used widely in property construction from the 1950s to the mid 1980s, mainly as an insulation material. The reason it was is was so popular in the post war period was because it was cheap and durable.

It became illegal to use in construction in the UK in 1999 due to the serious health risks posed by breathing in asbestos fibres.

As well as under flooring, attics and cavity walls, asbestos is also found in homes in the following areas: floor tiles, ceiling tiles, roof shingles, roofing felt, roof flashing, boiler insulation and pipe lagging.

Sometimes it was spray-painted so it may be difficult to visually identify the fibrous texture of the asbestos. In the construction of sheds and garages, asbestos was used in the form of solid fibro sheeting to clad and insulate the structure.

If you suspect there may asbestos in your property, a visual inspection will not be enough. The recommended approach is to call in a specialist asbestos surveyor to take away suspected asbestos fibre samples to a laboratory to be tested. A professional will use appropriate, safe breathing apparatus and equipment when handling the asbestos.

How do I make it look like someone is home?

If you are going to leave your home empty, it’s a good idea to make it look as though someone is at home whilst you’re away, to prevent burglary and vandalism.

Here are our helpful tips:

  • Set up timer switches on lights on each floor and a radio on a timer somewhere near the front door.
  • Leave the curtains and blinds half open.
  • Arrange for a nominated friend or neighbour to visit the property every week, collecting post from the doormat, mow the lawns, check that there’s no damage, no infestations and that the heating is running on a low temperature.
  • If you have a driveway, ask for one of your neighbours to park their car in the drive every night.
  • Arrange for a neighbour to move your rubbish bins to the roadside on bin day, putting in some of their recycling into the bins at the same time.