Empty homes and derelict buildings

Empty homes

Do you know of a potential home that is standing empty?

Do you know of a potential home being used mostly for short holiday lets?

Do you want help turning your empty property into a home for someone – and a source of income for you?

Do you need permission to use your property for short holiday lets?

Call us on 020 7364 2572 or email housing.strategy@towerhamlets.gov.uk

There have never been fewer empty properties in Tower Hamlets, or in London.

But there still nearly 3,000 potential homes are standing empty in Tower Hamlets.

The profile of these empty homes has changed over time.

Nearly half are classed as “second homes”, used by their owners from time to time. The council no longer allows their owners a discount on council tax.

Some flats declared as “second homes” may be let out either as short-term holiday lets, company lets, or on a residential basis.  We are beginning to target these.

Of the 1,700 empty premises that are not classed as second homes, many are being renovated or converted.

But where potential homes are just standing empty, we work with owners to turn their empty property into a home through support, professional advice and substantial grants.

We can also take enforcement action.

Where a potential home has stood empty and unused for two years, we charge the maximum council tax penalty the law allows: the owner pays the full council tax rate plus a 50% empty homes charge.

Peer-to-peer websites enable more and more people to list or rent short-term holiday stays in residential properties. If any residential premises are let as holiday lets out for more than 90 nights a year, owners must have permission from the council. Owners of properties that are let without permission for more than 90 days in a year can be fined up to £20,000.

Some of the empty flats in new-build blocks may be “Buy to Leave” properties bought by investors to cash in on rising house prices - and then left empty. Evidence of the extent of this, in London and in Tower Hamlets, is very limited. The Mayor of London has recently commissioned research on the issue. Our response will need to build on that research.

A small proportion of premises classed as “empty homes” represent the long-term derelict or semi-derelict blight of the classic empty home. We are targeting these, working on a Top Twenty of these kinds of building - ten of which have been empty for more than twenty years.

We can help. We work with owners to turn their empty property into a home through support, professional advice and substantial grants.

We can also enforce. We can require owners to make emergency repairs, and in some cases we can step in ourselves to do work.  We are also identifying long-term empty properties where the last resort of compulsory purchase may be appropriate. Under these powers, the council can take over ownership of an empty property and bring it back into use.

In many cases, you will need planning permission to convert your property - including where a building is listed or is being converted into either flats or shared accommodation for six tenants or more. For further information, please see our planning pages.

In many cases, you will now need a licence to operate as a landlord in Tower Hamlets – please see our pages on selective licensing and mandatory licensing for further details.

Further information about Council Tax and empty homes.

You can also find further information available on empty property grants.

If you would like to report or discuss an empty property, please call us on 020 7364 2572 or email housing.strategy@towerhamlets.gov.uk