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Empty Homes

An empty home is defined as one which has been unoccupied for six months or more. According to the National Records of Scotland, Orkney has the third highest level of vacant dwellings within Scotland with an estimated 6.2% of the housing stock lying empty.

Properties can become empty for many reasons. Owners may be struggling to finance renovations, legal issues might be halting people from using the property, or the owners may be facing difficulties with selling or renting their property.

Whatever the reason for a property becoming empty, an empty home presents costs to both its owner and the community around it. The Scottish Empty Homes Partnership suggests that an empty property can cost its owner between £8,000 and £10,000 a year based on the cost of council tax, insurance, repairs and loss of rent. The local community can also face a lowering of house prices, an increase in anti-social behaviour and the closing of local amenities due to the shrinking population.

Although it is the responsibility of homeowners to maintain their property and keep it in good order, it is Orkney Islands Council’s intention to give empty home owners as much support as possible to bring their properties back into use. The Council’s Development and Empty Homes Officer can provide information and advice to help with this.

For information and advice, please contact your local Development and Empty Homes Officer, Rachael Batty, either by email or phone 01856873535 extension 2198. Many members of staff are currently working from home, so it is advised to email in the first instance.


Repairs, Renovation and Home Improvement

If you are interested in renovating your empty property, your local Development and Empty Homes Officer can offer advice on everything from available discounts and funding to finding reliable traders and planning applications.

Your Development and Empty Homes Officer can help you with access to VAT discounts and trading discounts from various suppliers which have been organised by the Scottish Empty Homes Network. You may also be able to gain a reduction in Council Tax whilst renovating a property.

Matchmaker Scheme

Orkney Islands Council runs an Empty Property Matchmaker Scheme for people wanting to buy or sell empty properties. This matchmaker is like a 'dating agency' for empty homes: it aims to match empty property owners who are considering selling their property with people who want to buy an empty home.

Selling a Home

Many empty home owners do not have the time or finances to return their property to use. In this case, sometimes the best option can be to sell the property to someone who is able to do so. Whether your property is ‘ready to move in’ or needs work doing to it, you are welcome to join the Matchmaker Scheme. The benefit of the scheme is that the details of your property will be sent directly to people interested in buying properties in your area which meet their criteria. Even better it is a free service!

Buying a Home

If you’re looking to buy a currently empty property/properties then the Matchmaker Scheme can help you to find the right one for you. We keep your criteria for potential houses on record and when any that match your specification join the Scheme we will email you its details and the contact details of the owner/agent of the home.

Buying empty properties requiring renovation gives the opportunity of buying at lower cost and personalising the property as it is renovated. Every empty home is different so there is the opportunity to buy both traditional and modern properties in ‘move-in’ condition, as doer-uppers or as big projects both on Mainland and on the Islands. Again it is a free service!

How to get involved

Fill out either the Buyer Registration Form or the Owner Registration Form, which are available via the 'Related Downloads' section of this webpage, and send to the Empty Homes Development Officer by email or post to: Rachael Batty, Housing Services, Orkney Islands Council, School Place, Kirkwall, KW15 1NY.

Once this has been received, our Development and Empty Homes Officer will add your details to the database. When a match has been made the prospective buyer will be sent the details of the property and contact information for it, and the owner will be informed that their details have been passed on as a match.

Please note that the Empty Property Matchmaker Scheme is not an estate agency and all negotiations and sales processes take place between the seller and buyer. We recommend that anyone who is seeking to sell their property obtains independent professional valuation and legal advice (from a solicitor or estate agent).

Reporting an Empty Home

If you are concerned about an empty property in your community you can report it to your local Development and Empty Homes Officer (contacts provided in introduction).

More Advice

For information on all aspects of getting your empty home back into use, from renting to repairs, a great starting point is the Orkney Empty Homes Advice Pack which has tailored advice for people living on Orkney. This document can be provided in a range of formats and languages on request (contacts provided in introduction).

Relevant documents are available in PDF format from the 'Related Downloads' section of this page.

School Place, Kirkwall, Orkney, KW15 1NY

Telephone: 01856 873535

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Orkney Islands Council: BOREAS DOMUS MARE AMICUS