According to government figures last updated by the Department for Communities and Local Government on in August 2014, in England there are more than 635,000 homes lying vacant and unoccupied - 216,000 of which have been empty for more than six months.
With homelessness one of the pressing social issues of our time, the government is making a concerted effort to bring back those empty properties into the usable housing stock. It has already made available some £235 million (up until March of 2015) to stimulate that process of regeneration.
At least some of that public investment may be available to you if you help in the campaign to rescue an empty property.
Local authorities are responsible for the control and management of central government funding for the rescue and rehabilitation of empty properties. The rules on access to the various grants and loans that may be available therefore vary from one local authority to another.
To take just one example, at the time of writing (September 2014) the London borough of Brent offers grants of up to 70% of the cost of bringing an empty property up to a lettable standard. The amount of the grant increases according to the size of the empty home concerned, so that a one bedroomed home, for instance, qualifies for a 50% grant, a two bedroomed home for 60% and a three bedroomed or larger home for 70% of the costs of renovation, up to a maximum of £6,500 for each person that may be accommodated in the refurbished dwelling.
The grants are available whether the renovated property is for your own use or as a buy to let investment.
Buy to let
If you are interested in rescuing an empty property in order to subsequently let it out, there may be certain conditions attached to any grant or loan to ensure that the finished dwelling conforms to the building and safety standards the local authority requires landlords to uphold.
When calculating the costs likely to be associated with any empty property rescue, therefore, these standards are something you may wish to keep firmly in mind.
Naturally, there may be considerable variation in the cost of rescuing one empty property compared to another. Much depends on what you pay for it in the first place and the cost of the proposed refurbishment. If you are then planning to let the home, you may also need to include in the equation the cost of ongoing repairs, maintenance and any costs associated with the management of tenancies.
Also worth bearing in mind is the prudence of arranging suitable vacant property insurance - such as we here at UKinsuranceNET may provide - during the period of any renovation works. Throughout the works in progress, the property is likely to remain unoccupied, the empty property may attract more than its fair share of vandalism and theft, so specialist insurance for an empty property may provide the protection you need.
Empty property insurance may come to the fore once again when you are already the landlord of the rescued property. If it becomes empty for longer than 30 days - whilst you await new tenants to replace those who are leaving, for example - unoccupied property insurance may once again be required to ensure that your investment remains safely protected.
Rescue an empty property
Provided you have done your sums accurately, taking into account the purchase price of the empty home, the cost of renovating it to a given standard and the likely yield from subsequent rental income, rehabilitating otherwise unoccupied property may benefit not only the local community but also you as the landlord.