Bringing empty homes back into use

If you're an empty home owner or concerned about an empty home in your neighbourhood, then this page will give you some initial ideas and tips about how to bring a house back into use or who to report an empty home to.  It will also give you information about vacant property guardian schemes in Scotland.

Reporting an empty home

If you know of an empty home in your area, then contact our Empty Home Advice Service on 0344 515 1941 or email:

Empty homes list

Shelter Scotland has a partnership with the Scottish Government to help councils work with homeowners to bring empty houses back into use, more information is available on the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership site.

Why bring property back into use?

There are a lot of reasons to bring an empty property back into use, including:

  • The potential to make an income from the property

  • The potential to reduce maintenance and security costs on the property

  • Increasing the value of the property

There are also downsides to keeping a property empty:

  • The Empty Homes Agency has estimated that it can cost an home owner up to £7,000 per annum to keep their home empty – this includes the cost of council tax, minimal security to the property, and lost potential rent.

  • If a property lies unused and deteriorating it is at higher risk of vandalism, crime and damage from the elements. 

  • The longer your property is left empty the less valuable it becomes.

If you have an empty property and would like to bring it back into use there are a few options to consider.

Empty Homes Loan Fund

The Empty Home Loan Fund has 17 projects across the country.  Many of these projects involve either councils or housing associations (or a partnership of the two) giving loans to empty home owners to renovate their empty property. A number of other councils have established their own loan and sometimes grant funds for empty homes.  

Selling your empty home

There are a number of options open to you if you are considering selling your home.  It is worth bearing in mind that it is not always necessary to renovate an empty home before it can be sold.  You need to calculate what resources you have at your disposal and whether the increased sale price you might achieve after any renovation works is sufficient to cover the costs both in time and money it would cost you to undertake such works.

  • Estate agents – check with your local estate agents to see if they list and market empty properties. Our page on

  • Auction houses – empty homes are frequently sold at property auctions. Selling your home at auction offers a quick way to sell your property as there is no process of exchanging missives, the price is agreed and legally binding on the day of the auction. Below are some auction houses that often feature Scottish properties: 

  • Housing Associations – contact your local housing associations to see if they are interested in purchasing your property to add to their own portfolio of properties.

  • Matchmaker Schemes - check if your council runs an Empty Homes Matchmaker Scheme. The scheme works by taking some details from Empty Home Owners who are considering selling their property and people who are interested in buying empty properties and getting them in touch with one another.

  • Council Buy Back Schemes - some councils invest in 'buying back' ex-council stock and along with other properties to increase their own housing stock. 

Renting out your empty home

There are several ways you can rent out your property.

  • Renting the property out yourself - If you are thinking of letting your home, it is vital that you are aware of your legal rights and obligations

  • Using a letting agent - Letting agents can provide a property management service, find you tenants and deal with collection of rents and deposits in exchange for a fee. The Association of Residential Letting Agents and the Council of Letting Agents are good resources to check, if you are not sure what letting agents operate in your area.

  • Private Sector Leasing Scheme - Some councils run Private Sector Leasing schemes to increase the number of homes they can offer to people on their housing waiting list. Properties usually need to meet set standards and in exchange property owners are guaranteed a set rent level for the agreed lease period. 

Energy Efficiency Funding

There are various funding streams in Scotland aimed at increasing energy efficiency and reducing carbon emissions that can be accessed by private sector empty home owners, depending on their situation. Considering energy efficiency measures a part of a refurbishment project can provide a number of benefits. Contact Home Energy Scotland.


If your property needs renovation or repair before you could sell, rent or live in your property yourself then your council might provide you with advice and information about doing up your property. If you fall into certain categories you may be eligible for some forms of assistance, such as a grant or loan. You maybe also be eligible for VAT discounts that long term empty properties are entitled to (where properties have been empty for 2 years or more).

Many councils also run Trusted Trader Schemes that can help you to find a reliable local tradesperson to carry out work on your property.

If you are confused about where to start with renovating your property consider whether selling the property in its current state might be an option.  If you are sure you want to renovate but don't know what to do try getting in touch with your local council to see if they can offer you some advice.

Empty Homes Advice Service

For more information on what you can do to bring an empty home back into use then contact our Empty Homes Advice Service. This service provides advice and support to owners and neighbours of empty home, including:

  • Providing first level empty homes advice to empty home owners, neighbours and organisations interested in empty homes work.

  • Making referrals to our network of local Empty Homes Officers working in Scotland's Local Authorities. 

  • Following up on empty homes reports and pursuing empty homes case work in areas without a local empty homes service. 

  • Provide information on where empty homes grants and loans are available throughout the country and link into local Empty Homes Matchmaker Schemes.

The service can be contact via phone: 0344 515 1941 or email:

If you need housing advice, contact us for free.

Last updated: 30 June 2020

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