Empty Homes

Empty Homes

Empty homes are a waste of resource. By bringing them back into use we could remove the problems associated with empty homes for the good of of the wider community and help address housing needs. The Council’s Empty Homes Strategy involves working with other appropriate agencies and demonstrates the Council's commitment to improve this problem.This Strategy is available at the bottom of this page, it links in with the Private Sector Housing Strategy which is also available.

Information is key so if you are either the owner of an empty home or are concerned about an empty home in your area then please either email us at customerservices@eastcambs.gov.uk, or contact the Empty Homes Officer on 01353 665555; or use the Empty Homes Agency’s web link.

Impact of Empty Homes

For the community empty homes can mean that peoples perception of an area change for the worse. They fear that house prices will be effected and the fear of crime increases and for those living next door this can be extremely upsetting.

For the owner leaving a home empty can be very costly. A house that is not lived in very quickly deteriorates; moisture and the elements can get in and do extensive damage. Pests such as rodents can go undetected and damage the fabric of the property. If the property is not secure vandalism, theft and squatters can become an issue. The costs of bringing the property back into use may escalate as a result of these and other problems and the relative depreciation in the value of a property can do the same.

By Bringing and empty home back into use the owner can make significant gains:

  1. Capital funds, if the property is sold;
  2. Income from rent;
  3. Increased property value;
  4. Reduced outgoings, e.g. no Council Tax to pay;
  5. The property if lived in by either tenants or an owner will not depreciate in value as quickly

Formal Action

When a property is shown to be having a seriously negative impact on the community and the owner is unwilling to take reasonable steps to cooperate formal action can be taken.

A Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) is where the Council takes over the ownership of the property and then sells the property and in doing so can recover any costs of work done in default to make the property safe. Enforced Sale can be used when there a debts owed to the Council which can be recovered through the forced sale of the property.

An Empty Dwelling Mangement Order (EDMO) enables the local Authority to secure occupation and proper management of privately owned properties that have been unoccupied for at least 6 months, but the Local Authority would itself not need to take over ownership of the property.

Short-term Advice for Owners

There are many things that the owners of empty homes can do to reduce impact of their property. These Include:

  1. Ask the neighbours to keep an eye on the property and give them details of how to get in contact with you.
  2. Ensure gardens are maintained in a reasonable state.
  3. Turn off the water at the stopcock, and ensure outside pipe work is sufficiently lagged and ideally during the winter months outside taps are left empty.
  4. If it is safe to do so keep the heating ticking over at a low level to prevent frost damage.
  5. When making you or your representative make their regular visits here are some suggestions for things to check:
  6. Gutters are kept clear and drains are not overflowing (try to visit when it is raining).
  7. There are no signs of rodents or other pests.
  8. Try to chat with the neighbours to see if there have been any problems.
  9. Check for damp and mould and sign of rot in any woodwork.
  10. Look out for cracks in brickwork and plaster.
  11. Remove post.
Apply/Report online: Downloadable version:
Apply/Report online:

Empty Homes Grants & Loans

In 2009-2010 financial assistance totalling nearly £56,000 has been paid to owners of empty homes to assist with bringing them back into use.  The council will work with owners of empty properties including Houses in Mulitple Occupation (e.g. shared houses and bedsits) to encourage favourable outcomes. We can visit a property to carry out an assessment, we then provide a letter identifying improvements necessary to make a property fit for occupation andspecify areas where financial assistance is available.

Empty Homes Grants and Loans are at the discretion of the Council, to qualify the property must have been empty for more than 6 months and we must agree to the works involved.

Funding in the Project Area

Grants and Loans are available for up to £30,000 as part of the Project, this inculdes Littleport, Pymoor, Little Downham, Prickwillow and now Soham. This is to help renovate, modernise and make empty homes decent for people to live in. £320,000of funding from the East of England Regional Assembly is available for the Project 2010-2011.

Financial Assistance Comparison by Type (Project Area Only)
 FeaturesGrantLoanGrant & Loan
Maximum £10,000£20,000£30,000
Funds available forCategory 1 HazardsYesYesYes
Category 2 HazardsMaybeYesMaybe/Yes
Improving the external appearance of the propertyNoYesLoan Only
Funds available toFirst Time BuyersYesYesYes
DevelopersYesYesYes
LandlordsYesYesYes
ConditionsThe Owner must agree to occupy or let the property for the duration of the loanYesYesYes
The Mortgage Company must agree if applicableYesNoGrant Only
2 Quotes are required for each of the worksYesYesYes
One contractor can act as project managerYesYesYes
Interest FreeYesYesYes
Proof of ownership requiredYesYesYes
Benefit Check requiredNoNoNo
Means testedNoNoNo
Property must be registered with the Land RegistryYesYesYes

We have made changes to the prohect to make it easier for people to apply.  Originally the conditions of the grant meant if you sold the house within 10 years, you had to repay all the money.  We have now reduced this to five years.  We also offer to pay 50% of the grant/loadn up-front, which helps those whose renovation has stalled.

Funding in the rest of the District

A limited number of Grants are also available in the rest of the District for up to £10,000 to help owners make the property decent for people to live in.

Financial Assistance Available (Excluding Project Area)
 FeaturesGrant
Maximum £10,000
Funds available forCategory 1 HazardsYes
Category 2 HazardsMaybe
Improving the external appearance of the propertyNo
Funds available toFirst Time BuyersYes
DevelopersYes
LandlordsYes
ConditionsThe Owner must agree to occupy or let the property for the duration of the loanYes
The Mortgage Company must agree if applicableYes
2 Quotes are required for each of the worksYes
One contractor can act as project managerYes
Interest FreeYes
Proof of ownership requiredYes
Benefit check requiredNo
Means TestedNo
Property must be registered with the Land RegistryYes

The discretionary Empty property grants are available for properties in the rest of the District.  The grant will be up to a maximum of £10,000 per property for single use or for a House in Multiple Occupation. The property must remain in ownership of the applicant for the grant period of 10 years; otherwise full repayment of the grant will be required. The property may be owner occupied or privately rented by the applicant for this period. These are payable upon completion of the grant.

It is also worth pointing out that in accordance Her Majesties Revenues and Customs document Notice 708 Customs: Buildings and Construction VAT on empty homes vacant for 10 years there is no VAT to pay and on homes vacant for 2 years or more the VAT is reduced to 5%. For more detail contact HMRC or go to their website.