Empty homes

What is an empty home?

An empty home is any privately owned residential property that has remained unoccupied and unfurnished for at least 6 months. It does not include holiday homes, second homes or properties which are empty due to the owner being in care.

How to report an empty home

If you know of a long term empty home, you can report it to us using our online portal:

Report an empty home

Some properties may appear empty, run down and in tired looking condition when in fact they are occupied.

Complaints about run down homes

If the property is so run down you feel it is not in keeping with the rest of the neighbouring properties and is having a detrimental effect on the local area. You can complete our online Planning Enforcement Complaint eform and it will be investigated by the relevant officer.

Finding an empty home

If you are interested in finding an empty home to buy or rent, either for your own use, to rent out or to develop and sell. You could search for a property by:

  • looking around the area that you want to buy
  • contacting local agents and auctioneers
  • putting a note through the door
  • making a land registry search to find out who the owners are (the information held may not be up to date)
  • checking planning applications for owner or agent details

As a council we contact empty home owners directly with the information provided to us on a monthly basis by the council tax team.

Owners of empty homes

Empty Property Financial Assistance Scheme

To encourage owners of empty homes to bring their properties back into use we are offering the following financial assistance, either:

Non-repayable loan of up to £5,000 per home

This is for properties that have been empty for longer than 6 months and require small amounts of work to bring them up to standard.

The loan can be used to carry out necessary repairs to meet decent homes standards.

Decent Homes Standards

A decent home is one which is wind and weather tight, warm and has modern facilities. In particular a decent home must:

  • meet the current statutory minimum standard for housing;
  • be in a reasonable state of repair;
  • have reasonable modern facilities; and provide a reasonable degree of thermal comfort

You can sell your home to anyone if we do not agree to buy it within 8 weeks.

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The loan is secured against the property and an administration fee of 10% of the value of the loan is charged.

The loan is only repayable if the property is sold within the nomination period (1 to 5 years).

Interest free repayable loan of £10,000 per home

Properties must have been empty for longer than 6 months to qualify for this loan which helps to meet the financial shortfall of returning a property to a lettable condition.

The loan is repayable monthly and is secured against the property. An administration fee of 10% of the loan value is charged.

Further information and how to apply

Further information can be found in our empty property financial assistance information guide.

To apply for either of these loans please complete our empty property financial assistance application [pdf] 276KB .

The YMCA also offer funding to refurbish empty homes in return for a set leasing scheme with guaranteed rents. We may also be able to contribute financially towards this. In the first instance contact should be made with the YMCA direct at emptyhomes@ymcadlg.org or 01273 222558 to see if your property is suitable for the scheme.

Enforcement Action

If an owner of a long-term empty property declines assistance or fails to respond, we can use various powers including the serving of statutory notices which require works to be carried out.

In extreme cases we can use Enforced Sale procedures and Compulsory Purchase Orders to bring properties back into use.

Further information

Find a trades person

Find a business that has been vetted and approved by Trading Standards in your area.

VAT discount

Homes that have been empty for 2 years or more can benefit from a VAT discount for works carried out to bring the property back into use. For more information and guidance see HMRC Customs and Excise guidance for VAT on empty properties.

Council Tax discounts

Some empty properties are entitled to a Council Tax discount. For more information see Council Tax discounts.

However, properties that have been empty and unfurnished for 2 years or more will be charged a premium.

Additional Council Tax charges on empty properties

Any property which is empty and unfurnished for 2 years or longer will attract a premium charge, which is a percentage of the full Council Tax rate for the band (rates as of 1 April 2022):

Time empty Percentage
Up to 2 years 0%
2 and 5 years 100%
5 and 10 years 200%
Over 10 years 300%

Council Tax and properties in disrepair or derelict

Even if you think your property is uninhabitable while you make repairs or replace the kitchen or bathroom, you will still have to pay Council Tax.

The Valuation Office Agency (VOA) is responsible for deciding which properties should be deleted from the Council Tax list.

If you wish to apply to the VOA to have your property deleted from the Council Tax list you should firstly read the VOA guidance notes: domestic properties which are in disrepair or are derelict.

You can contact the VOA using their online form

or email: ctonline@voa.gov.uk

or phone: 03000 501 501

Letting your empty property

You may wish to consider letting your empty property. You can find lots of useful information through the government's renting out a property web page.

If you are thinking about acting as landlord yourself, we provide the following landlord services:

  • our housing advice service runs a landlord scheme which helps landlords find tenants and gives advice and support on managing a tenancy. For more information email: housing.options@arun.gov.uk
  • we also hold landlord forums twice a year at the Civic Centre in Littlehampton. For more information please view our landlords' forums web page.

Selling your empty property

If you wish to sell your empty property you have 3 options:

  1. To sign up with an estate agent
  2. To sell it privately
  3. To sell it at an auction

The Citizens Advice and Home Owners Alliance provide lots of useful information on selling a home and how to sell your house at auction.


An empty property where the owner or tenant has died

If you are the executor or administrator of an empty property you can find information and guidance through the government's dealing with the estate of someone who's died guide.

Prior to probate being granted or letters of administration being made, an exemption of up to 6 months Council Tax may apply if the property is empty. For more information and how to apply, see unoccupied property exemptions and discounts.

Our empty homes strategy

Find out from our Empty Homes Strategy 2023 to 2028 what we have already achieved and how we are continuing to address the problem of long-term empty homes in our district.