Empty Homes

An empty home is defined as one which has been unoccupied for 6 months or more. Orkney currently has the worst empty homes record in Scotland with 6.9% of the housing stock empty.

Properties become empty for a number of reasons: they are bought as development opportunities, inherited, or the owner faces issues with finance or selling/ renting the property. No matter what the reason for it becoming empty, an empty home presents costs both to their owner and the community that surrounds it. Shelter Scotland has suggested that an empty home costs its owner an average of £7000 per year in bills and potential lost income. The local community can also face a lowering of house prices, a locus for anti-social behaviour and closing of small local amenities. The issues arising from lack of community is particularly felt on the islands as school numbers drop and businesses suffer from a decrease in income. The more properties that are empty, the more this problem is compounded.

It is the responsibility of home owners to maintain their property and keep it in good order however it is Orkney Islands Council’s intention to give owners as much help as possible to bring these homes back into use. The Empty Homes Development Officer can provide information and advice to owners to help bring properties back into use. There are many options available, from help with finding a tenant to advice on selling or renovating a property.


Repairs, Renovation and Home Improvement

If you’ve been looking into the option of renovating your property but feel you have insufficient information or funds to go ahead with the work at present there may well be help that the Empty Homes Development Officer can organise for you. These discounts can include VAT 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. You can also gain advice on finding reliable traders, funding and planning applications. For advice and more information, email luke.fraser@orkney.gov.uk or ring 01856873535 extension 2172.

Matchmaker Scheme

Orkney Islands Council is now running a Property Matchmaker Scheme for people wanting to buy or sell properties. Matchmaker is like a 'dating agency' for empty homes: it aims to match empty property home 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 it to the Empty Homes Development Officer by email to luke.fraser@orkney.gov.uk. or post to:

Luke Fraser, Housing Department, Orkney Islands Council, School Place, Kirkwall, KW15 1NY.

Once this has been received the Empty Homes Development 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, the owner will be informed that their details have been passed on as a match. Please note that the 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).

Sweat Equity

If you own a property and are unwilling to sell or renovate it yourself, sweat equity might be the best option for you. Sweat equity is a form of long term lease where your property is let out on the condition that your tenant renovates the property over the course of the tenancy. Usually a greatly subsidised rental is charged with the work carried out being the remainder of the rental payment.

Reporting an Empty Home

If you are concerned about an empty property in your community you can report it using the free national helpline. To report an empty home call 03445151941.


For information on all aspects of getting your empty home back into use, a great starting point is the Orkney Empty Homes Advice Pack which has tailored advice for people living on Orkney. This document can be requested in large print format by contacting the Empty Homes Development Officer who will be happy to send a copy to you.

If you want any further information or advice regarding Empty Homes Development, please contact Luke Fraser on 01856873535 extension 2172 or by email to luke.fraser@orkney.gov.uk.

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

School Place, Kirkwall, Orkney, KW15 1NY

Telephone: 01856 873535

Email: customerservice@orkney.gov.uk

Orkney Islands Council: BOREAS DOMUS MARE AMICUS