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What is the definition of a vacant property?

What is the definition of a vacant property?
What is the definition of a vacant property?

If you’re considering buying an empty property to invest in, or if you own a second home that you’re not occupying, knowing what constitutes a “vacant property” is important when it comes to aspects like insurance and tax.

In this article, we outline what constitutes a vacant property, the difference between vacant property and unoccupied property, and what owning a vacant property could mean for your tax bill and insurance policy. So, what is the definition of a vacant property?

What is considered a vacant property?

According to UK regulations, a vacant property is considered officially ‘vacant’ when all furniture has been removed from the property and the property has been left unattended for more than 30 days. It’s important to note that this definition may vary both from council to council and insurer to insurer, so it’s always important to check beforehand with your local providers.

A property can be vacant for many reasons, including the following:

  • The property was abandoned or is considered derelict (in which case property developers might be interested in purchasing it)
  • You’ve moved into a second home and haven’t yet sold nor plan to re-sell your old home
  • You’re waiting to carry out home renovations or home decorating
  • Former tenants have left and the property hasn’t yet been re-let

Does vacant mean unoccupied?

In definitive terms, ‘vacant’ describes a property that is totally empty, meaning that there are no personal items, furniture, appliances or belongings left behind. An unoccupied property might describe a property where personal items or furniture still remain, but the property itself is not lived in.

Typically, a “vacant” property describes a property that is empty with no visible interest from market buyers, and is mostly of interest to property developers looking to renovate old buildings and abandoned properties.

Buying vacant property: what you need to know

When you buy an empty or vacant property, there are a couple of important things to be aware of, especially if the property is considered derelict or in need of major renovations.

You’re not guaranteed a mortgage

When buying a vacant property, there’s no guarantee you’ll be approved for a mortgage. Many renovation projects fall short and property developers lose interest in the renovation project, so mortgage providers might consider a mortgage on an empty or abandoned property to be of high risk.

Even if you have a strong credit history and own your own home (or several properties), you might find that it’s easier to pay cash for a vacant property, rather than trying to obtain a mortgage.

Calculate all costs beforehand

Before jumping in and buying a vacant property, it’s important that you know just how much the renovations are going to cost before investing cash (cash which will probably be from your own pocket.) Make sure to do a professional void property inspection so you know just how much the entire process is going to cost, including any applicable council tax and home insurance.

You may also face difficulties if the abandoned property is frequented by squatters, especially if the property has been vacant for a long time. All of these factors should come into play before taking the leap to purchase a vacant property.

Owning vacant property: what you need to know

Council Tax and Empty Home Premiums

If you own a vacant property, you’re most likely going to be liable for paying both council tax and an empty home premium for the full duration of time that your home remains vacant. If you’re having renovation work done immediately, you may be entitled to council tax relief; however, those not eligible will pay up to a 300% council tax premium on top of their regular council tax bill if they keep their property empty.

Look to renovate / repurpose the property

You might find it difficult to re-sell a property that needs lots of renovations, or that has been left abandoned for a long time. It’s always a good idea to make sure you’re fully committed to the property’s renovation before buying, and once bought, sticking to the plan for renovation.

Short Term Vacancy Insurance

As you might find it difficult to obtain regular home insurance for a vacant property, you’ll need to apply for short term vacancy insurance to ensure that your property is safe while you’re absent.

If the property is lacking in certain basic security (such as broken windows, doors) you might find that you’ll pay a higher premium than on a regular property.

Find out more about vacant property rules

If you’re new to the nuances of vacant property, get in touch with Clearway today and enquire about our vacant property security services. We’re experts in empty property security and unoccupied property management, offering everything from temporary alarms to steel security doors and screens.

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