Islington property owners who leave new flats sitting empty could end up in jail

Cllr James Murray 2

Cllr James Murray 2 - Credit: Archant

Council attempts to tackle problem of “buy-to-leave” properties

A pioneering planning policy aiming to halt the scourge of “buy to leave” properties in the borough has been proposed by the council.

Islington Council is to consult on the ground-breaking new rules requiring new homes to be regularly occupied in an attempt to stop investors buying up properties – often sold off-plan overseas – and leaving them empty.

It’s the first time a local authority has tried to tackle the problem using planning powers and, if the proposal is adopted, breaking the rules could land the owners with a fine, prison or even seizure of the property.

In recent years the borough has seen a huge increase in the so called “buy-to-leave” properties – particularly in the south of Islington near the City – and as many as a third or more of homes in some new developments are potentially vacant, according to research.

The council is concerned that these empty new homes are “wasted supply”, making no contribution to meeting Islington’s need for new places to live.

Under the proposal, which followed a consultation last year, new homes could not be left unoccupied or unused for longer than three months, and would have to be occupied for at least 14 days in any three-month period.

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If a property is left unoccupied for more than three months, the council would be able to take legal action such as seeking an injunction from the High Court against the owner.

Persistently breaking the injunction could lead to a fine, prison and even seizure of the empty property.

Cllr James Murray, Islington Council’s executive member for housing and development, said: “In Islington, as across London, there is a desperate shortage of housing.

“It’s wrong when new homes sit there empty purely as investments, when Londoners are desperately trying to find somewhere to live.

“Our new proposals would make sure that all new homes in Islington are occupied – we want to send a message that ‘buy-to-leave’ is unacceptable.”

The new planning proposals would not affect existing homes, but would be applied to new properties.

Consultation on the proposal launches on Monday and runs until Friday January 30.

To take part in the consultation ‘Preventing Wasted Housing Supply Supplementary Planning Document’ click here from Monday.