When a tenant moves out your property may be empty for a while. It's important to make sure it doesn't fall into disrepair or become a target for vandals.

Keeping an empty property safe

If your property is empty for any period of time you need to make sure it is safe.  You should:

  • Visit regularly and check the front and rear of the house are secure;
  • Leave the alarm on;
  • Make sure it looks lived in by collecting the post, leaving curtains up and so on;
  • Leave a key and your contact details with a trusted neighbour;
  • Let the Police know the house is empty; and
  • If its winter drain the central heating system.

Renovating a property

If your property has been empty for a while it may need refurbishing before you rent it out.  Before starting the work you should find out from the Council if you need Planning Permission and Building Regulations Consent.

If the work needed is relatively simple you might decide ‘do it yourself’.  Before starting you should:


  • Make sure you are competent to do the work needed;
  • Know where to turn water, gas and electricity off; and
  • Collect leaflets or get help and advice from a DIY superstores

Do I need to pay VAT on renovation work?

The Government have introduced VAT reductions to encourage owners to bring their empty properties back into use. 

How much VAT you pay will depend on how long the property has been empty.

If your property has been empty for at least two years before the work starts the builder can charge a reduced rate of 5% for the cost of the work. 

You can find out more about VAT reductions here.

Picture of outside of empty house

Long term empty properties

Having an empty property for a short time is part of the housing market but if a house is empty for a while you need to think about how you will bring it back into use.

A house that is empty for a long time reduces the number of homes available and can easily become an eyesore and a target for crime and anti-social behaviour.

If a property is left empty for a long time or becomes a problem the Local Authority can take action against the owner including enforced sale or compulsory purchase.

If your property has been empty for a long time our Empty Homes Team may be able to help.

Choosing a builder

If the house needs a lot of work or complex renovation you may want to get advice from an architect or surveyor and employ a builder to do the job.

You can find a list of building firms registered with the Federation of Master Builders on their website or look for a builder who is a member of the Government backed TrustMark scheme.

Before deciding on a builder you should:


  • Agree in writing what work is to be done;
  • Get a written quotation;
  • Check if VAT is included;
  • Find out what guarantee is given; and
  • Make sure the builder is insured.