Advice and guidance

Cornwall Council has an established Empty Homes Team which has helped bring hundreds of empty properties back into habitable use.

We prefer to communicate and engage with owners of long term empty properties to encourage, assist and enable them to bring their properties back into habitable use through voluntary cooperation.

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However, should cooperation not be forthcoming, and owners do not demonstrate reasonable plans and timescales for bringing properties back into use the Council may, where appropriate, intervene and use relevant enforcement powers to ensure a satisfactory resolution, e.g. improvement in the condition and re-use of the properties.

We would like to share some tips on keeping the costs of refurbishment to a minimum and to maximise the value of empty properties.

How to find an empty property?

We would normally advise somebody who was looking for a property in need of refurbishment or an unused property to sign up with auction companies as in most cases properties such as these are sold using this method. Also we would strongly recommend that you register your requirements with local estate agents and review all the well-publicised websites which provide details of properties for sale.

If you have the details of a specific property which you are interested in purchasing, but is not being advertised for sale, then we may be able to assist you in communicating your interest to the owner.

You can find a list of Council owned land and property for sale on our website.

What should I find out about an empty property before I purchase it?

There are some opportunities for apply for reduced rates of VAT when taking on an empty property. However you will need the relevant evidence, so it is prudent to request this before you purchase the property.

The Council cannot provide details relating to the current owner of a property. Therefore when you are considering purchasing a property being marketed as empty we advise you to ask the current owner, or their agent, to provide you with the following information. 

  • Is the property registered as empty by the Council Tax department of the Council. 
  • What does Cornwall Council consider to be the date the property became empty.

The current owner will be able to request these details from Cornwall Council through either the Empty Homes team or the Council Tax department. Knowing the answers to these questions may assist you with your refurbishment budget and whether a reduced rate of VAT is likely to be achieved.