Vacancy to vitality. Awareness Campaign launched to bring empty homes back into use in South Cambridgeshire

An awareness campaign has been launched to bring empty properties back into use and help get families living in suitable homes.

overgrown trees and bushes

South Cambridgeshire District Council is addressing an urgent need to get empty private properties back into circulation so as many people as possible can live in a property that is fit for their needs.

The campaign, launched in Empty Homes Week 2024, is urging private property owners to turn empty properties into homes through sale or rental.

Cllr Henry Batchelor, South Cambridgeshire District Council’s Lead Cabinet Member for Environmental Services, said: “The cold weather highlights the shortage of suitable homes even more acutely. Unlocking the doors to empty homes is vital. It’s not just about providing shelter; it's about supporting families and communities. Every vacant house holds the potential to become a home. It's time to transform vacancy into vitality. If you own an empty property but are considering rental, don’t hold back as it could bring additional income and keep your property secure and heated.

Renting an empty property is easier than people think, thanks to Shire Homes, the District Council’s private sector leasing scheme, a complete management service and worry-free way of renting.

Shire Homes can take on a property for three or more years and provides guaranteed rental payments every month, with no management fees, regular property visits, full management service and day to day maintenance.

All rental homes must be safe and in rental condition. Shire Homes also offers a 'Homes for Ukraine' option where owners could potentially receive funding for up to £570 per home towards PAT testing, Gas Safety Check Certificate, EPC and Smoke Alarms to get their property ready for rental to a Ukrainian resident.

Private homeowners can support the campaign by speaking to the Empty homes Officer who can offer help, advice and visit your property if required.

A recent example of how the Council can support bringing empty homes back into use is a house where the owner died with no known relatives. Empty since 2020, the property has experienced burst pipes and flooding to the downstairs causing issues to neighbours, with no prospect of being sold. The District Council Empty Homes officer worked with a genealogy company to trace two distant relatives in France who have agreed to commence probate and sell the property.

How to spot an empty property?

In summer it will be more apparent due to gardens growing wild, but lookout for burst pipes and leaks from neighbouring properties, or unused refuse bins.  Empty properties with overgrown gardens attract vermin and can damage neighbouring properties. They also attract a higher insurance premium, as well as being an eyesore to communities. Bringing an empty property back into use can provide owners with a regular rental income, a heated property in winter or significant income from a sale. 

How to get an empty property back into use?

There are many reasons why a property could be empty. The Council works with Auction Houses, Genealogy and Probate companies to progress probate or trace owners and estate agents - the Council can be a keyholder if property owners live some distance away. Also with Cambs HIA a home improvement agency and not-for-profit shared service team within the council. Cambs HIA can arrange low-level building works on a private paid-for basis. They have surveyors, approved builders and contractors who work for them and arrange site meetings, Building Control, Planning and can complete technical drawings and schedules of work.

The ‘Doer Upper’ option

It is popular for people to take on an empty property in need of TLC to make it their home. If completing building work yourself, maintenance and improvements are usually charged at the standard rate of 20% VAT.  If you’re thinking about or have recently purchased a property that has sat empty for two plus years, the Council’s Empty Homes Officer can provide you with a letter free of charge to pay just 5% VAT on renovation work when using a registered builder.

No Use Empty’ - South Cambs is determined to bring Empty Homes back into use. If you are a private homeowner and would like further help and support, please contact Anna Nightingale Empty Homes Officer on:

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