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Which City Has The Most Vacant Properties?

Which City Has The Most Vacant Properties?
Which City Has The Most Vacant Properties?

A recent insurance survey has reported the staggering number of empty homes in London – equal to nearly 90,000 unoccupied sites, worth £130 billion to the owners. Although the capital has the most vacant homes of any location in the UK, this statistic isn’t limited to London.

Hundreds of thousands of sites without tenants pose increased security concerns for those responsible for their management due to ongoing shortages of building materials and fixtures.

In this article we look into the reported number of empty properties, the total values involved, and the areas where spikes in crime rates are associated with vacant residences.

The Ten UK Cities With the Most Empty Residential Homes

As we’ve seen, London tops the poll with 87,731 unoccupied properties, but the other urban areas in the top ten include:

  • Manchester – 8,024
  • Bournemouth – 7,213
  • Birmingham – 6,975
  • Bradford – 6,056
  • Leeds – 4,857
  • Coventry – 4,399
  • Bristol – 3,725
  • Brighton and Hove – 3,388
  • Reading – 2,595

Related Reading: Empty property security in Manchester

Collectively, and combined with London, there are almost 135,000 vacant residential homes worth £146 billion.

The huge value of these empty homes is causing alarm for insurers who recognise the escalated risk levels and the exposure of these vulnerable properties to criminal activity.

Why Are There So Many Vacant Properties in the UK?

There are several reasons why so many homes are empty.

Examples include:

  • Waiting for financing to become available to carry out renovations or property repairs.
  • Subdued local housing market values, where a seller may be waiting it out in the hope of selling for a better price in the future.
  • Long-term investment assets or developments becoming delayed due to material shortages and backlogs in construction.
  • Issues around inheritance tax on properties received from an estate or other unpaid tax liabilities.
  • Being between tenants, problems with previous tenants, or difficulty finding quality tenants to take up a vacancy.
  • Planning restrictions related to property occupancy or intended changes of use.

Vacant homes account for around 3% of all housing stock, and with a focus on preserving green land and cutting back on new developments, repurposing existing empty properties is a priority.

Of those, approximately 1.6% belong to the private sector, where the individual owner has sole financial responsibility for preventing risks and covering the costs of repairs should a break in or criminal act occur.

For owners and landlords who wish to retain a home that is currently vacant, the focus must be on enhancing security, whether short or long-term to maintain the fabric of the property, ensuring it does not depreciate in value or become a target for crime.

Security Issues Linked With Empty Homes

Few property owners wish to have an empty residence, but as we’ve seen, filling a vacancy or resolving issues around planning or refurbishment may take time to resolve.

In the meantime, there are complex problems which could impact the individual property or neighbouring homes:

  • Arson – deliberate fires are common in empty homes. Gas pipe leaks, faulty electrics and dampness can also cause accidental fires.
  • Squatters – particularly in central cities, illegal occupants are quick to move into empty properties and can be difficult to evict or may cause malicious damage.
  • Burglary – criminals often locate vacant homes to steal metal, roofing tiles, radiators, glazing, doors and timbers.
  • Safety – vermin, infestations, contaminated water, disused sewage systems and general dilapidation can cause untold damage, presenting health risks that may impact the surrounding area.

These issues can cause ongoing costs, above and beyond the immediate repairs or replacements – and will often mean that empty property insurance premiums increase as the perceived risk rises.

The Cause of Vacant Home Devaluations

Homes that have previously been the target of crime can drop sharply in value, and a poorly maintained property can lose up to a quarter of its market value – as can the homes nearby.

Regular inspections and upkeep are essential to retain its value, regardless of the duration of the vacancy.

Dilapidation, where bricks begin to erode, render cracks or paint starts to flake, can cost more to fix than the property is worth, leading to challenges such as roots growing into the foundations.

In the worst-case scenario, an empty home can fall into disrepair where insurance policies do not cover the extent of damage caused, and it becomes financially unviable to bring it back into habitable condition.

If you have an empty property and do not expect it to become occupied or sold in the near future there are several solutions available:

Protecting Vacant Properties From Crime

Before writing off an empty home as a cost burden, owners can take a proactive route to safeguard vacant properties to prevent value loss, keep a home in good condition, and potentially improve the sale value.

Brownfield development plans are being rolled out across many local authorities, which may be an opportunity to sell an empty home while helping address housing shortages.

However, a property that has been damaged by theft, arson or squatters will inevitably attract a far lower valuation.

Some of the security steps available are practical and quick to implement:

  • Steel security doors prevent criminal access, with optional keyless entry to ensure contractors or legitimate visitors can enter the site.
  • Steel security screens avoid glass theft or breakage while removing potential access points.

Other surveillance strategies can deter criminal activity, such as mobile patrols, canine patrols or regular security inspections.

Surveillance Options for Empty Homes

CCTV and vacant property alarms with solar-powered batteries and wireless transmissions are ideally suited to empty buildings, running autonomously without mains cabling or a vulnerability to tampering.

Lock-up and open services with an accredited keyholder can provide security during times of vulnerability, ensuring that the property is fully secure when an authorised visitor or inspector leaves the premises.

Keyholding services can also be useful, allowing security responders or emergency services to attend an alarm activation at any time of day without requiring the owner to travel potentially long distances.

In many cases, alarm alerts are false or non-urgent, but having a security responder on hand can eliminate the risk of many threats and ensure the owner takes prompt action when an attempted intrusion occurs.

Clearway has been trusted to secure, monitor and protect vacant properties, sites and their associated assets since 1992. As one of the UK’s leading vacant property security, environmental and property services company we have developed an extensive toolkit to ensure your critical assets are protected with minimal hassle.

With 14 locations in the UK, we offer vacant property security in the North West and Walesthe North East, London and the South East and Scotland. 

We look after residential and commercial buildings, working directly with property managers, landlords, estate agents, local authorities, retail businesses and some of the largest hotel and leisure groups and housing associations in the UK.

Many of our industry-accredited solutions work independently of mains supply or a telephone line, thereby reducing ongoing security-related utility costs. Most importantly, they give you peace of mind.

Contact one of our vacant property specialists today to discover why we are the trusted security partner of choice for countless businesses just like yours throughout the UK.

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