As a property owner, you may well find yourself in a situation where it seems leaving a property empty might be the best course of action. Maybe you’re travelling for an extended period, moving into a new house, closing down your business or undergoing long term renovation. If you have no desire to sell or rent your property, you may opt to leave it unoccupied.
Though this may seem like the easy option, owning a vacant property actually comes with its own set of trials and tribulations. In light of that, here are some things to consider before you make the decision.
Vacant properties can pose various security risks that you have to bear in mind. As vacant property security experts Oaksure say, leaving a property vacant for as little as 24hrs carries a significant risk. Squatters can gain access in that period of time and they are extremely difficult and costly to remove.
Vandals are another risk. A vacant property is open to graffiti, or worse—extensive damage. Even an empty property can be at risk of theft. Some burglars steal copper lining from electric wiring. This is something of value that even the emptiest of properties will have.
The best way to avoid all these threats is to ensure your vacant property has additional security measures such as gates and grilles in place, keeping criminals at bay and your mind at ease.
Taxes and business rates
Leaving a property empty may cut out the cost of paying a lettings agent to find tenants and maintain the place, but it can still end up being costly. Business rates or council tax can still apply to properties even if they are unoccupied.
Experts like Gerald Eve’s Jerry Schurder decry the state of modern business rates, but since even a change of chancellor does not appear to have fixed things, you will have to do what you can to adapt to them.
The good news is, you currently don’t have to pay business rates on buildings that are empty for three months. After that, if you own the property as a business, you will be charged full rates. There are other exemptions that may apply to you, especially if your business is a charity, or if your property is a listed building, so make sure you check with your local council to see if they apply.
If your building is residential, you may be liable to pay the inflated empty homeowner’s tax to your council unless you meet one of the exemptions listed on the government’s website. For instance, some councils give fully-furnished second homes a 50% tax discount, and most uninhabitable properties will be untaxed. Check the exemptions carefully before you make your decision.
On top of taxes, insurance is another empty property expense that has to be paid. It is likely that your regular home insurance property will not cover you if your property is unoccupied for more than 30 days. If this is the case, you will have to invest in specialised unoccupied property insurance.
According to research by the Telegraph, most insurers will only cover vacant homes for short periods, and they may remove elements of their usual policy such as protection against water damage from burst pipes, since no one will be there to inform them of such incidents. There are, however, specialist insurers such as Towergate, Endsleigh and British Insurance who will insure empty houses for extended periods, but often for a larger fee.
If it is possible, it might be worth renting your empty property out for a short period, until you want to start using it again. Some local councils even provide their own leasing services, lowering the cost of finding a lettings agent. And now, with the advent of hotel-busting startups like Airbnb, it may be worth selling a stay in your empty property to holidaymakers. Forbes has these tips on doing just that.
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