Chartered surveyor body calls for increase in council powers to deal with vacant properties

The government should use the 750,000 empty homes in the UK to rehouse thousands who will be homeless over Christmas, according to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

RICS wants the government to ramp up council powers to intervene with empty dwellings, and for a reduction in VAT on the renovation and repair of buildings from 15 to 5% to make renting empty property a more attractive option for owners. The institution said there are currently measures in place to help homeowners who face having their property repossessed, but not those who do not have accommodation.

Latest figures from the communities department show there are 762,635 empty homes in the UK with 72,130 families homeless or in temporary accommodation.

Local authorities have the power to issue Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMOs) on properties that have been vacant for six months or longer. The RICS claims owners are put off renting out properties because of high maintenance costs.

Properties that have been empty for two years currently get the VAT discount, the RICS want this to be offered on all empty properties.

RICS policy officer, James Rowlands said: “Thousands of homes should not be allowed to stand empty while people are homeless or suffering from poor living conditions. The government must use all its powers to bring these homes back into use by reducing VAT on repair of buildings and reinforcing council powers. Rather than allowing homes to sit empty, everyone should be able to celebrate Christmas in a home of their own.”