Empty properties

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There are a huge variety of reasons for a house being left vacant and as a result there are no 'quick fix' solutions to the problem of empty properties. 

However, we will target all houses that have been vacant for longer than six months, and, in special circumstances, action may be taken in respect of houses that have been vacant for less than six months, for example where an enforcement notice is outstanding. 

We can identify empty properties by liaising with the Council Tax team and maintaining the empty property database. This is used to electronically map the location of empty houses in order to identify any concentrations.

You can also Report It Empty , which will help identify empty homes that may otherwise go undetected.

Dealing with empty properties

We have a range of options available for dealing with empty homes:

  1. We will try to advise owners on the ways they can bring a property back into use themselves.
  2. Where an empty property is causing a nuisance or is affecting neighbouring houses we will make use of current legal powers to minimise any nuisance while we continue to try to bring the property back into use. This may include securing the property or carrying out works in default to rectify disrepair that is affecting neighbouring properties, such as where the property is a dangerous structure, or where there is a broken sewer.
  3. Where a property has been empty for longer than six months we will contact the owner to ask what they plan to do with the house. At this stage we will offer advice and assistance to help the owner return the property back into use.
  4. If the owner does not respond or they do not appear to be taking steps to bring the house back into use, we will consider making use of one of the following options to ultimately bring the property back into use. These options are explained in further detail on the pages below.

Carrying out a Cost Benefit Analysis

Because of the unique circumstances that cause a property to be empty, in order to determine the most appropriate course of action we will carry out a Cost Benefit Analysis prior to any enforcement action being taken. This analysis will determine whether the resources required, both financial and people, justify the end result.

For example, compulsory purchase is very resource intensive but is justified where the end result is property and/or land that can be developed to meet a specific affordable housing need or to produce a large quantity of affordable housing.

EDMOs are generally easier to implement but costs can only be recovered from rental income after the management fee has been paid. This can limit how much can be spent on renovation as if costs could not be easily recovered, other enforcement action may be more beneficial.

There will be a presumption that if, prior to any enforcement action being started, an owner has requested and is eligible for financial assistance, this will be provided. This is due to the owner proactively seeking to return the property to use and to the benefit of the Council.

Empty properties action group

In order to ensure consistency and promote information sharing, an action group has been established made up of council officers from the following council departments:

  • Private Sector Housing;
  • Council Tax;
  • Development Control;
  • Strategic Planning and Regeneration;
  • Legal services;
  • Housing Advisory Services;
  • Economic Development and Property.

This action group meets at least every six months to discuss general issues and identify action to take for particular properties.

Portfolio holder councillors from Housing and Environmental services are also invited to attend these meetings.

A representative from this group will attend Area Committees.

Contact Details

Private Sector Housing,
Ipswich Borough Council,
4W Grafton House,
15-17 Russell Road,

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01473 432000