A guide to empty property rates 

When is my property considered unoccupied?

Your property is considered unoccupied if it’s been left vacant for 30 or more consecutive days. This applies to all empty properties, regardless of whether they’ve been left unoccupied due to impending sale or let, renovations or probate. 

Do I pay rates on an empty property? 

You won’t pay any rates on empty properties for the first 3 months for residential properties (6 months if you’re selling a house during probate) or 6 months for industrial properties. Once the rate-free period ends, you will usually have to pay full business rates on your property.

Note that in Northern Ireland, standard property rates apply to all domestic properties with a rateable capital value of £20,000 or more (whether occupied or not). If the property’s capital value is assessed to be £150,000 or less, the landlord is responsible for paying the rates. If the property’s capital value is assessed to be more than £150,000, the tenant is responsible for paying the rates.

How are empty property rates calculated? 

In England and Wales, business rates depend on your property’s rateable value as determined by the Valuation Office Agency (VOA). To get an estimate of your business rates:

  • Use your postcode to find the rateable value of your property
  • Select the multiplier that applies to your property’s size and location
  • Multiply your rateable value by the correct multiplier
  • Deduct any business rate relief you are eligible for

In Scotland, business rates are assessed similarly, though their multiplier is called the “poundage rate”. You can see if you’re eligible for any business rate relief here.

For Northern Ireland, you can use the rates calculator to determine payable rates here.

Exemptions  

You may be exempt from paying business rates on your property if:

  • Your property is registered for public religious use
  • Your building or lands are used for agriculture, including fish farms
  • Your property is used for training or the welfare of the disabled
  • Your property has a rateable value less than £2,600
  • You are prohibited by law from occupying the property
  • You have been declared bankrupt
  • Your unoccupied house is a new build built before 31 October 2016. New houses built before that date are exempt from property rates for up to 18 months up to state aid limited.

All exemptions are subject to strict legal requirements. You should appeal to the VOA if you think your empty property might apply.

How to keep your unoccupied property safe  

Unoccupied homes are more likely to experience theft and vandalism. Plus, without an occupant to watch the property, the home is at greater risk of fire, flood, or subsidence damage, and small issues (e.g. leaks, sewage, backup etc) may snowball out of control.

Here are some tips that will help keep your vacant proprety safe:

  1. Make your proprety feel “lived in” - maintain the garden, retrieve your post, and ensure that general house upkeep including paint and window repair are well maintained.
  2. Check your property regularly - try to visit your property at least once a week. This way, you’ll be able to spot potential problems before they get out of hand, such as small leaks or security issues.
  3. Invest in security - minimum security measures are a must if your property will be unoccupied for an extended period. Consider investing in at least 5 lever mortice deadlocks or BS3621 locks.
  4. Buy Unoccupied Property Home Insurance - if something should go wrong and you suffer the effects of a leak, flood, accidental damage or worse, then you will want to make sure you have the right type of Unoccupied Property Specialist Insurance in place.