Dealing with empty properties

Bringing an empty property back in to use benefits the property owner and the wider community.

Empty properties are a wasted resource both for the community and the owner. They:

  • reduce the supply of housing and represent a loss of income for the owner
  • are often an eyesore that can blight an area
  • can attract antisocial behaviour
  • can cause concern to neighbours and the local community
  • can affect the value of surrounding properties.

Bringing empty properties back into use is a priority for us as it helps to alleviate some of these issues, as well as increasing the supply of housing.

Report an empty property

Tell us if you know of any empty properties in your area. It might be empty if:

  • the windows have been broken for a long time
  • post has not been collected
  • windows and doors have been boarded up
  • the rooms are always in darkness.

Do it online

Report an empty property

You can also contact us:

We will investigate and contact the owner to try to bring the property back into use. Where appropriate, enforcement powers may be used.

Please provide as much information as possible about the property, including a full address. This information will help us to identify what action is needed.

Changes due to coronavirus

Please note that during the current coronavirus pandemic we are operating a reduced service. We will only be visiting properties where there is an imminent risk to health or safety, such as where the risk posed by the issues is greater than the potential for spreading coronavirus.

Examples include:

  • sewage in someone’s home
  • structural collapse
  • falling building elements, such as glass or failing walls
  • pests that can spread disease
  • imminent risk of fire
  • electrocution
  • carbon monoxide leaks.

In all other cases officers will try and assist you by phone or email.

Officers may also need to be redeployed to help deal with the response to COVID-19. This means it will take longer to deal with your request than usual. Thank you for your patience.

Problems caused by empty properties

We mainly get complaints about:

  • flytipping
  • pests
  • overgrown gardens
  • squatting
  • arson attacks
  • drug use
  • vandalism and graffiti
  • negative effects on sales of neighbouring properties
  • eyesores in the street.

Rent your empty property with Lambeth Lettings

Lambeth Lettings is a free service available to developers and owners who are bringing empty property back into residential use.

Find out more Lambeth Lettings

Empty property VAT reductions

Your VAT costs can be reduced when refurbishing your empty property or converting a vacant commercial space for residential use.

You might qualify for a reduction of VAT to 5% if:

  • the property has been empty for minimum of more than two years before you start renovation work
  • the property will be used for residential purposes after completion of the works
  • you will be using builders to complete this work.

You might qualify for zero-rated VAT for a property that has been empty for more than 10 years before you start renovation work and it will be used as a residential home for you or your family.

Further information can be found at VAT for builders.

Please contact Lambeth Empty Property Officer in order to obtain a necessary letter as evidence that a property has been empty for the relevant qualifying period:

Enforcement action

Where we can't find the owner or they refuse to cooperate, we may:

  • serve notices with regards to pest, rubbish tipping and works in default
  • enforce a sale
  • issue a compulsory purchase order.

Freedom of Information requests

We are frequently asked for lists of all empty properties within the borough.

We do not hold a list of all empty properties. However, we do hold information about those properties which we have been advised are empty in relation to Business Rates or Council Tax.

Exemption under Section 31: Law Enforcement

We are unable to provide names of businesses or addresses of empty commercial and residential properties. This is because we consider disclosing this information would make them a target of crime. This information is exempt from disclosure under Section 31 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Under Section 31(1)(a), public authorities are not obliged to release information that would be likely to prejudice the functions of law enforcement (the prevention and detection of crime).

Enquiries to the Metropolitan Police indicated that release of information about where buildings are situated would increase the potential for:

  • buildings to be targeted by squatters
  • buildings to be targeted by criminals or terrorists intent on hiding or depositing proceeds of crime of terrorist materials
  • premises to be identified as short-term hiding places by criminals or terrorists
  • premises to be targeted by vandals or street artists.