How long can you leave a property unoccupied for?

It is not uncommon for properties, whether they be residential or commercial, to remain vacant for a short period of time, such as a gap in a landlord’s tenancy, or a property that is going through probate. However, some properties can remain unoccupied for months or even years, while sometimes falling into disrepair and becoming an eyesore for the local community.

Generally, there are no set-rules in place that state how long you can leave your unoccupied property vacant for. However, it is important to note that most standard home insurance providers will only cover an empty property for 30 to 60 days. If you plan on leaving your property vacant for more than 30 days, it is wise to speak to your policy provider to see if your cover can be extended or if you need to purchase a specialist unoccupied property insurance policy.

Strictly speaking, there are no laws in the UK citing that you can’t leave your property unoccupied for a set period, here in the UK. However, if you own an unoccupied property, you do need to be aware of laws that local authorities could implement, that could affect how you manage your unoccupied property.

EMDO

If you currently own an unoccupied property, you may be aware of an EDMO (Empty Dwelling Management Order). EDMO’s can give local councils across England and Wales the legal power to possess a private unoccupied property that has been vacant for at least two years (according to the latest briefing paper by the House of Commons Library). The council do not have the right of ownership to the property, but they are entitled to enter, make any necessary upgrades, manage the property and prevent the owners from having access to the property once the EDMO is in force.

EDMO’s are rare and are usually only enforced when a property has been vacant for a long period of time, and when the council and the property owner cannot reach an agreement. By the time an EDMO has been implemented, the council has to have had approval by the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) which is the first stage of the process, and attempted to work alongside the property owner before any legal proceedings can start, in order to encourage the owner to make the property habitable again.

CPO

A CPO, otherwise known as a Compulsory Purchase Order, allows local authorities or bodies with statutory powers, to apply to the government for a CPO approval, that would allow them to force homeowners to sell their property if the property obstructs any major project or upgrade that is deemed for the ‘greater good of the public’.

Local authorities could apply for a CPO due to a variety of scenarios, such as large developments including railways, public buildings or space, or new roads or even if your property is deemed unsafe for the public.

A CPO is usually the last resort if the property owner and the local authorities cannot negotiate a value for the property 
(which is usually set at the market value). In addition to the market value of the property, owners could be eligible for additional payment depending on the circumstances or if the property value has been directly affected from the CPO.

Before purchasing any property, whether it be unoccupied or not, you can contact your local council to find out if the property is subject to a CPO and who is trying to issue it. It may not be possible to find out before purchasing the property if it is subject to a CPO, as developments and local authority plans change over time.

No matter how long you plan on keeping your property unoccupied for, it’s important to keep a dialogue with the local authorities or housing associations if they get in touch, as the last thing a landlord wants is a costly battle on their hands.

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