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Empty Homes

How to re-use your empty home


There is a high demand for affordable homes in Carlisle; figures from 2018 recorded approximately 1004 long term privately owned properties. Owners are missing out on an opportunity to change these empty properties into occupied homes.

The Empty Homes Officer at Carlisle City Council is responsible for empty homes, provide advice and information on empty and derelict homes across the district, as well as reducing the number of vacant properties. This involves working directly with the owners of empty homes to give advice on returning their property back into use; however when this is not possible, as a last resort, we can carry out enforcement action to ensure that long term empty properties are renovated and reoccupied.

An empty home costs you money. You still need to pay Council Tax on your empty home, add to that insurance and maintenance costs and it can cost more than you think.

Benefits of bringing an empty home back into use

There are many financial benefits from bringing an empty

home back into use and these can include:

  • -A regular rental income if rented;
  • -A capital sum if you sell.

But there are also many other benefits:

- It could provide a home for someone in need;

  • - Re-using empty homes makes use of a wasted asset.

What can I do with my empty home?

You could occupy, sell or rent your property.


Empty Properties

What you can do?


These are some of the ways you could sell your empty home:

  • You could sell on the open market or use an estate agent;
  • You could sell at public auction – this is quick but you need to price your property realistically;
  • Or, you could join the Council’s free ‘Homefinder’ Scheme. 
  • Renting

    You might need to repair your property first, to bring it up to standard. You could rent your property privately or use a letting agent – their fees and services will vary.

    To help choose a suitable agent, you could contact the National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS) who promote quality standards for letting agents. See or call 01242 581712.

    You could also contact the Association of Residential Landlords (ARLA), who self- regulate letting agents and provide information and guidance for landlords and tenants.

    See or call 0845 345 5752.

    For help finding tenants, contact our Homeless Dept 01228 817079.They try to help people who urgently require a home. If this is the first time you have been a landlord, you may find the links helpful:

    The Homefinder Scheme

    We are in the process of developing the Homefinder Scheme. The scheme works by ‘matching’ empty homes for sale with buyers. Carlisle City Council will promote empty homes available across the District (via the website) in the expectation of helping buyers get a ‘foot’ on the property ladder.

    Benefits to you of selling your empty home include:

    • zero council tax to pay, as this is paid by the new owner
    • zero insurance and maintenance costs, as these will be paid by the new owner
    • zero headache of owning an empty home and not knowing what to do with it

    Benefits to people buying your empty home include:

    • putting your own ‘stamp’ on the property by carrying out your own repairs and redecoration
    • a chance to buy at a more affordable price (if the property needs repairs)
    • vacant possession (nobody has to move out before the buyer can move in)

    If you have an empty home we could have a buyer for you in Carlisle District Area through our Homefinder scheme, as people often ask us about buying empty properties.

    Once an empty home owner has been put in touch with a prospective buyer, both parties can arrange a viewing and any follow up contact if they want.

    Potential buyers/contractors

    We currently have three contractors that are looking for empty properties in the Carlisle District area. If you would like to join the list of interested purchasers please contact the Empty Homes Officer via 01228 817301 or emailing [email protected]. If you have a property that you would like to sell please also contact the Empty Homes Officer.

    Homes matching - Go to for more information Help with repairs before selling

    The homes matching service could help pay for repairs before you sell your property. An advantage to the buyer is that they could get a mortgage for a higher-priced property. BUT if they’d bought the property before repairs it could be more difficult for them to get a mortgage afterwards.

    Homes matching providers can list repairs necessary, price them up and get an independent valuation. They can manage repairs needed at no upfront cost to you and labour can be locally sourced if possible. All work is usually paid for through an increased sales price afterwards.

    Homes matching providers can also find buyers for your empty home. For example if there is a suitable buyer match and the property needs repairs before selling, the buyer can choose what they would like done before they buy (the buyer will have signed an agreement beforehand so they can't back out during or after repairs).

    Selling an empty home using a homes matching service

    If you're having difficulty selling then a homes matching service can work with your estate agent to help double the advertising efforts (at no extra charge).

    The matching service could find a suitable buyer too. The estate agent still gets their sales commission, it doesn’t cost them money and helps add value through extra advertising.

    If your property is not yet for sale but is in good condition, then homes matching services sometimes work in partnership with a firm of solicitors who carry out the sales process for you.

    There are external companies who can help you decide the best way to bring your empty home back into use such as homesmatch.

    Registered Housing Providers

    You may wish to contact one of the Registered Housing Providers to discuss the possibility of one of them buying or leasing the property from you. Housing Associations in the Carlisle Area are:

    The Riverside Group - Customer Service 0345 111 0000 Email: [email protected]

    Impact Housing - Call: 03448 736 290 Email:[email protected]

    Castles & Coasts - Call: 0800 085 1171Email:[email protected]

    Tax incentives to re-occupy your property

    The Government has reduced the level of VAT for the renovation of certain empty properties as an incentive to bring them back into use. Residential properties empty for at least two years. Since 01 January 2008, renovations and alterations to residential properties that have been empty for at least two years will be eligible for a reduced VAT rate of 5%. A builder will have to pay the full rate of VAT on materials, but would

    charge the house owner 5%. It is then up to the builder to re-claim the remaining 15%. It is not the case that the builder will charge 20% then say that it is up to the property owner to claim the 15% back. The builder should be familiar with the legislation and will know if the incentive applies to a project before commencing the work.

    Further information on this reduced rate can be found in Section 8 of Public Notice 708 – VAT: Buildings and Construction, available from the National Advice Service on

    0845 0109000 or downloadable from HMRC website at

    Residential properties empty for ten years or more

    A developer or property owner can claim back all the VAT charged on the renovation of a building that has been empty for 10 years of more, once the dwelling is sold. It is important to note that the developer will have to be VAT registered or register for VAT and that the property has to be sold to reclaim the VAT.

    If the property owner wishes to retain the property for private residential use and not sell it, they can make a claim for the VAT under the DIY Builders Refund Scheme, available from Customs and Excise.

    How the scheme affects the property owner

    The main difference between the two incentives is that when the property has been empty for two years, the owner has nothing to do, simply pay a reduced VAT rate. If the property has been empty for ten years, the house owner has to outlay the full VAT rate then claim it back. This may not fit into the property owner’s finances. So it may be the case that the property owner prefers to pay VAT at 5% not 0%. The two year period still applies even if the ten year period has passed.

    How the schemes affect the builder

    Under the 5% scheme, the builder will have the additional responsibility of reclaiming the remaining VAT, which they may or may not be happy with. The builder may decide that it is not worth doing the job. That it is why it is important to agree this with the builder at the first point of contact. There is no benefit to the builder with the 5% scheme. The 0% scheme is aimed at the larger builder or developer, as they own the property that is the subject of the work. Therefore, they benefit fully from incentive.

    Please note that this information is correct at the time of publication. It is important that you check with HM Revenue and Customs for the up-to-date information. The VAT rate

    was 20% at the time of publication and the incentives were in place at this time.

    Last resorts

    If an empty home is causing significant blight to an area or causing a statutory nuisance, Carlisle City Council has powers to take enforcement action to rectify this. Carlisle City Council is keen to avoid enforcement action and prefers to work with responsible property owners to rectify issues relating to their properties without resorting to enforcement action. There is a wide range of powers available and we use the most appropriate and proportionate powers to resolve empty property issues. We will often need to use multiple powers to resolve problem cases. Outlined below is the most commonly used legislation which deals with the problems associated with, or caused by empty properties.

    Prevention of Damage by Pests Act 1949

    If a property contains harbourage for pests, the Council can serve a notice on the owner requiring them to remove it.

    Section 80 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990

    For accumulations of refuse in the garden of a property the Council can serve a notice under this Act requiring the occupant or person responsible to remove it. If the notice is

    not complied with within a specified timescale the Council will remove the waste and charge the owner.

    Section 215 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990

    A notice can be served under this act where the appearance of a property or land is causing significant blight to an area and loss of amenity, such as overgrown and untidy gardens, or untidy ‘run-down’ buildings.

    Enforced Sale Procedure – Law of Property Act 1925

    If there is a debt owed to the Council, the Council can go to court and have a debt registered as a charge against the property and force the sale of the property to recoup the outstanding debt.

    Property Nuisance

    When properties are left empty for long periods of time they can become a focus for vandalism, especially if the gardens are overgrown and the house falls into disrepair.

    This can then cause a downward spiral. Owners of an empty house should ensure that it is kept tidy and secure.

    You should notify the Environmental Health Team if the disrepair is causing dampness or other structural problems to your house, or if doors or ground floor windows have been broken or are left open. 01228 817200

    Dangerous Structures

    Our Building Control team operate a 24 hour service to deal with dangerous structures.

    If you require any further help or information, please contact:

    Empty Homes Officer

    Carlisle City Council,

    Civic Centre,



    CA3 8QG

    Tel: 01228 817301

    Email: [email protected]

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