Accessibility Skip to main content

Residents’ survey results

In 2021 we declared a housing crisis to address the growing problem of households looking for fewer available properties than ever before. Both the Local Plan and Housing Strategy went out for public consultation at the end of 2022, setting out different options for how Torbay can meet housing targets, whilst protecting the environment. Over a quarter of responses said that the Council should tackle empty homes. 

As part of a wider communication strategy around Empty Homes Week, we began a campaign to raise awareness of the work it was undertaking towards bringing empty homes back into use. Letters were also sent to 200 owners of empty homes that our records indicated were empty for 2 to 5 years. 

The month-long campaign described the urgent need for housing in the Bay, urging owners to take action, with a link to our webpages describing any assistance that maybe available. The campaign also asked Torbay residents and visitors to complete a survey about their views on empty homes, and to what extent they thought the Council should get involved.  

The consultation exercise was undertaken for almost 5 weeks, from 20 Feb to 22 Mar 2023, when it had to close due to the Council’s rules around Purdah. The online survey was available from numerous press releases and social media platforms during this time. 


128 people took part in the main survey (57% female, 41% male), from which we received 55 comments and suggestions. The majority of respondents (87%) were over 45 years of age, with 53% over retirement age. 

Q1. To what extent do you agree the Council should get involved in bringing empty homes back into use? 

  • Strongly agree / Agree 94% 
  • Disagree / Strongly disagree   3%  

We will: 

Deliver the Empty Homes Policy action plan to reduce the number of empty homes, by working with property owners and targeting those empty for over 2 years 

Q2. Are you aware that Torbay Council charge 100% Council Tax on properties from the day they become empty? 

  • Yes 44% 
  • No 56%  

We will: 

Keep people informed about our empty homes policies through our website and social media

Q3. Are you aware that Torbay Council charge a long-term empty property charge (premium) for properties continually empty for over 2 years, and that this increases over time? 

See our empty property premiums 

  • Yes 25% 
  • No 75% 

We will: 

Keep people informed about our empty homes policies through our website and social media, specifically to property agents and the owners themselves 

Q4. Are you aware that the Council offers a free service that helps landlords with a competitive range of financial and other benefits, for example deposit and rent in advance and regular visits? 

See our Landlord Tenancy Matching Scheme 

  • Yes 21% 
  • No 79% 

We will: 

Keep people informed about our empty homes policies through our website and social media, specifically to property agents, landlords and the owners  

Q5. To what extent do you agree the Council should use incentives to bring homes back into use? 

  • Strongly agree / Agree 79% 
  • Disagree / Strongly disagree ..9% 

We will: 

Look into a range of incentives, for example developing business plan to seek funding for a renewable loans scheme to assist empty home owners bring their dwellings back into use 2023/24 Q3 

Q6. To what extent do you agree that the Council should use enforcement to bring homes back into use? 

  • Strongly agree / Agree 81% 
  • Disagree / Strongly disagree 11% 

We will: 

Produce and deliver a private rented improvement plan to include empty homes and tackle disrepair and poor housing conditions. A risk and impact based approach will be used to tackle problem properties, also working with Planning enforcement colleagues 

Q7 What are the main reasons you think the Council should get involved to bring empty homes back into use? Tick all that apply. 

  • We should repair existing housing before building on green fields 26% 
  • They provide much needed housing 25% 
  • They often look unsightly 19% 
  • They are often a source of nuisance 14% 
  • It’s the Council's responsibility to address empty homes 13% 
  • The Council should not get involved ..2% 
  • Other reason, please tell us:   2%  

7.1 Often it is because the local Planning system is unfit for purpose and is difficult to contact and get decisions from especially for listed building which mean it takes ages to bring property back into use.  

7.2 You seem to be avoiding holiday homes? Next door to me is occupied less than 12 week a year. Owner not been near since last September   

7.3 "Despite Torbay Council claiming to opt to build on Brownfield sites before further utilising even more Greenfield sites, this is 100% NOY happening across Torbay. Just look at how many Greenfield sites that have been built on and are still being built on. Barrats in Yalberton Road, have been allowed to desecrate and destroy a lovely walking area for locals and Persimmons are going to be allowed to do the same on the Inglewood site, that shouldn't even be being built on. Then we read that there are all of these empty homes, known by Torbay Council within Torbay, with no action in place to get them refurbished and habitable for genuine local people looking for a home.  It is more affordable and environmentally friendly to refurbish these empty homes and get them habitable, it is also creating habitable homes very quickly, thus relieving the housing crisis swiftly, as opposed to constantly destroying our environment, green spaces, wildlife corridors and OUR Torbay,  which is swiftly becoming a concrete, polluting jungle, for local residents to reside in. which is a far cry from what our current council portrays Torbay to be. 

7.4 The council should compulsory purchase empty homes with a view to repair and let to local people.  

7.5 They are or likely to fall into disrepair  

7.6 It’s absolutely none of your business. If someone wants to buy a house or anything for that matter it should be their call, it’s been purchased with legally taxed pain money and everyone should have the right to do whatever they wish without being answerable to the council.. it’s another step towards authoritarianism. The council should not build on green land as an answer, what happens when all of the green belt has been built on and there is no room to erect a shed never mind a house? What happens then? When we are all cramped in and cannot move? Not going to be a happy place to live in is it? The population in some towns needs addressing or the quality of life will diminish. Then our problems will begin. It won’t be in my lifetime but our children’s. Your decisions have consequences. You should never back an animal in a corner. 

7.7 It should help keep communities more cohesive.  

7.8 The council have too much brown land that they do not use, and lots of empty buildings that could  be converted into dwellings - instead they sell off beautiful land instead of developing what they already have just because it’s easier and brings in instant cash  - it’s a disgrace ! 

7.9 Because this reason is only used to enforce an escalating  Council Tax on Private home owners and their Tenants. I know because I am the Tenant of a Private home owner.  

7.10 I think the council is right to try to encourage people to bring empty properties back into use, but there may be a valid reason why a property remains empty.  People don't fit into boxes.  Everyone's story is different. 

Q8. Thinking about bringing a property back into use, which of the following do you think the Council should pursue? Please tick all that apply 

  • Structured Council enforcement 16% 
  • Help with letting 16% 
  • Help with the sale, or auction 14% 
  • Larger loan to carry out repairs 13% 
  • Help with finding contractors 12% 
  • Legal advice 12% 
  • Small financial loan to clear the property 11% 
  • The Council should not get involved   2% 
  • Other, please say: ..3% 

8.1 Help with the planning process to get the relevant permissions into place.  

8.2 In 1978 I bought the cheapest house in Brixham. It was in a poor state of repair. As first time buyers we were given a grant of 50% on a new roof, rewiring etc. This meant a mortgage was allowed on the proviso of the council grant being granted. A massive help as a Brixham born young couple first time buyers.  

8.3 There are many properties that could easily be converted to Residential, however planning consent and the latest building Regs. make this not worthwhile pursuing for many owners.  I have one property which was refused by planning (the building is incongruous with surroundings - despite fact it was already there !- and told not worth contacting planning dept. again)- I went for appeal outside Torbay and planning was immediately approved. I am currently converting the property however in order to meet new property standards, this is proving very expensive.  (I even need an EV charge point - ridiculous). There are 3 other adjacent properties that I know the landlords are looking at converting, however they will not do this unless some more positive/creative thinking is applied from both planning dept and building control. 

8.4 Create a law that all Empty Homes must be only sold to locals as a first-choice option, or let to locals as a second-choice option once refurbished, NOT to outsiders from outside of the Devon borders and that Torbay Council has a register of local residents in need of the properties. When the property has been refurbished, inspected and certified fit for habitation the property is then offered by Torbay Council to local residents on the housing waiting list, be it for purchase or let. This could be managed by the Housing Department and a one off, handling fee could be charged to the seller for the sale of the property, or an annual percentage fee could be charged to a landlord, for the rental of the property. This would ensure that the Empty House is managed correctly and registered, local applicants get a home, with funding for the council included within the process.  

8.5 The council should support private landlords on the condition that the property is let to local people at a set rental fee and is not allowed to be sold for a set period of time 

8.6 Increase council tax /empty home levy which rises each month it is empty  

8.7 Looking in their own property portfolio first instead of pursuing something purely on the basis that it would bring in more cash –   

8.8 Triple Council Tax  

8.9 When property owners play difficult, because say they want planning agreed which has been considered but is inappropriate, the council should not bow down but use the laws it has to compulsory purchase the property. Then repair, let or sell  

8.10 Question requires further definition.  

8.11 Loans should be exactly what they say and should be repaid by the property owner.  No tax payers money should be forfeited.  

8.12 Provide funding to bring properties back to lettable condition 

8.13 Enforced sales  

8.14 You should provide help on an individual basis as required.  As stated before, everyone's story is different.  First of all, communicate with the owner and then see if they would like you to help.  

We will: 

Explore a range of incentives to help bring empty homes back into use and use a risk and impact based approach to tackle problem properties, also working with Planning enforcement colleagues.

Continue to promote our free service that helps landlords with a competitive range of financial and other benefits, for example deposit, rent in advance and regular visits. 

See our Landlord Tenancy Matching Scheme 

Q9. Were you aware that the Council already has a programme to tackle empty homes? 

  • Yes 38% 
  • No 62% 

Q10. Would you like to see more information about how the Council tackles empty homes? 

  • Yes 67.5% 
  • No 32.5%  

We will: 

Continue to keep the public updated by reporting progress via quarterly public, Council Committee meetings, via our website and through social media 

Q11. Do you have any further comments about empty homes and how the Council should get involved? 

We received 55 comments and suggestions:  

11.1 It seems in Torbay there isn't a dedicated empty homes officer, plus even when the council is involved they don't seem to have the power to do anything about it. XXXX is one example that's been going on for years, but there are hundreds around the bay. 

11.2 Good quality housing is needed and that will only happen if the processes associated with building and repairs is better managed and not delayed as it is now. The couple cup also needs to take its own responsibility in this issue, be far more proactive on the building process so better built houses is available - it’s no good issuing building control certificates if they are pointless eg a developer building sun standard property and then it gets signed off by the council. 

11.3 Empty housing and second homes are inexcusable. Lack of housing is reaching crisis point.  There is an acute shortage of homes for so many and local rents are out of reach for locals. I think financial penalties issued by the council  for owning an empty/second home should be much higher than at present to encourage the owners to sell or renovate and let them out. 

11.4 There is a beautiful large empty property on XXXX Rd. It is now just disintegrating and becoming a rubbish dump. 

11.5 Everyone knows that Torbay doesn’t have enough houses empty ones are a big bugbear  

11.6 Ensure that retiring service families get priority on the housing waiting list like they used to get during the 1960's through to the 1970's. 

11.7 See above comments 

11.8 If people are wealthy enough to leave a home empty they do not require help or loans, just up the council tax until it forces them to do something 

11.9 Please see previous comments. I am happy to show council where I know properties are located that could be converted to residential. One owner has already contacted myself. 

11.10 Have a friend whose son and girlfriend have moved back in with her and now have a baby. They are finding it really hard as she has a special needs so and another son at home. They only have 3 bedrooms and one bathroom. The son who has returned home and family are living in the dining room. Very cramped. They cannot find a home to move into. They need help and are not getting it. 

11.11 I would consider a second home that is occupied for less than a month each year as an empty home. Not sure if there any pathways to encourage these sorts of properties to be lived in more. 

11.12 There should be large scale advertising to raise the issue of long term empty housing, and to foster the view that not taking action is anti-social.  Owners of empty properties must be made to appreciate that action to make housing available will provide a huge range of benefits - to individuals and the entire Torbay community. 

11.13 Older people sometimes live in inappropriate homes that they are unable to maintain. There could be a swap programme set up with help to move and bring back a bigger house to better condition for a young family for example. 

11.14 A co-ownership support scheme to help people who want to buy a property but do not have sufficient income to do so could help local people. This may encourage youngsters to study and get jobs for their future. 

11.15 I think each empty home should be investigated individually as one size does not fit all, many home owners may be more willing to give up their property with appropriate incentives 

11.16 Empty properties should be offered to people with a local connection in the first instance every time  

11.17 Fine landlords where building are unsightly. Many buildings look run down or unkempt ( eg grass hanging from gutter). This has an adverse effect on visitors to Torbay. You only have to get off the train at Station Square and it is an embarrassment. If Landlords/owners won’t maintain their own properties then either fine them or repossess them and use for housing. 

11.18 There  are too many uninhabited properties kept for holiday lets. These need looking at. 

11.19 The council needs to act speedily on this matter.   The number of locals being evicted (through no fault of their own) appears to be rising.  There is a grave shortage of affordable rental accommodation across the board.  Temporary accommodation tends to be on a B & B basis with often no cooking facilities which is totally unsuitable for families.  It is taking too long to build new suitable housing therefore enforcing owners of long term empty homes to make them available to those in need is in my opinion imperative. 

11.20 Look at empty warehouses and business property eg pubs too. Speed up the probate as majority empty houses are stuck in probate.  

11.21 I own six property rental's all kept in immaculate condition but I was unaware of the above I feel you  should make this more public as the majority of people think  Torbay Council do very little to help the homeless  

11.22 Compulsory Purchase orders if Home Owners/landlords especially, continue to let properties that look unsightly and in disrepair  

11.23 Lack of knowledge in populace of council policy or actions. Do more 

11.24 You need to be mindful that Landlords that have previously had bad tenants will be loath to allow more tenants into their rental homes as it is always difficult to get them out and the law seems to be bias towards the tenant. 

11.25 It is a national problem how housing is used, how landlords can with the Governments support ask inflated rent for those who have simply come here illegally - I am ashamed that XXXX are given priority over ordinary people who’s descendants  have paid into this system for centuries - I am also disgusted how the council mis—manage their own property leaving huge buildings empty and instead invest in locations outside of the bay - terrible terrible mis-management 

11.26 The Council should address housing associations and their own property NOT private owners 

11.27 An empty home is a wasted asset which is depriving someone of a home and possibly a chance of a new start to their life. It also prevents further green field developments which will, in the future, be required to feed the population. 

11.28 I think the council should charge 200% council tax on empty homes and 2nd homes 

11.29 What is happening with the old hotel on XXXX road? 

11.30 Include All empty homes including flats above shops and turning empty shops and businesses into homes. 

11.31 Council tax should be waived or reduced when works are being carried out that make the house unfit - or extremely difficult - to occupy. The Council is unreasonable about homes that have been purchased but are not habitable because of much needed, extensive repairs/refurbishment that are underway. Most councils waive Council Tax during that sort of work, because the property is not occupiable. Torbay does not, forcing new purchasers to pay Council Tax on the home where they live and the home they are trying to make livable, so that they can move into it. When approached about the situation, the Council Tax office said that there was no provision for reducing or waiving council tax while works were being carried out. 

11.32 Increase the Empty Property Premium. Make compulsory purchase orders when properties are vacant for five years or longer.

11.33 Empty homes should be refurbished and given to local people, not people relocating to the coast  

11.34 Empty homes can become unsafe, unsightly and attract unwanted behaviour in its area. Torquay is losing its beauty and charm and looking like a dirty slum in some areas. If homes were lived in and cared for by residents and owners there may be a better attraction to live here driving up the footfall of the community and a better local year round economy. We need people to live here all year for business to thrive and not just rely on seasonal income. Let’s get more winter events and make Torbay somewhere proud to call home. 

11.35 I feel that all properties that are empty including second homes and airbnbs should pay triple council tax. The only exceptions could be properties where the owners have gone into old peoples homes or died but only during the sale process and within a time frame of a year. We have seen several properties for sale that have been empty for more than a year and have deteriorated in that time, the beneficiaries are not motivated to sell. I think the only way to encourage the public to sell empty home in by charging more tax on them.  

11.36 It's common sense to utilise existing properties to help those who desperately need housing, rather than building more. 

11.37 As the local housing allowance consistently fails to rise in line with ever increasing private rental charges, it is the duty of our council to provide genuinely affordable accommodation to those unable to buy and not eligible for council housing.   

11.38 This is ironic. I just read this on this website: In 2021 we declared a housing crisis to address local housing issues, making accommodation for local people a Council priority. Many people in our local communities are struggling to afford accommodation and there is a shortage of affordable housing.  Can you please tell me how many local people are housed at the XXXX Hotel in XXXX?  What and who is your priority?  Looks very much like you want the big bucks from the government housing XXXX who jump the queue over local children already on long waiting lists at the hospital, rather than wanting to house local people? 

11.39 All empty homes should be used. 

11.40 The enforcements take too long. 

11.41 Look at all the empty beech boxes Torbay has, yet people live on the streets. Why can't a few of the these shed like things be turned over to the homeless, especially in the winter, to provide protection from wind and rain. 

11.42 I am not familiar with current legislation obviously, but there should be some sort of time frame allowed for houses to remain empty if owned but not let out or lived in. For example if a house is not used and in a state of repair, the owner should  be informed and enforced to maintain and keep property up to a minimum standard. If the owner fails to do s o within an acceptable (??) time frame, a  notice of compulsory purchase should be issued by the LA so that the property can be back in use preferably to the advantage of local housing needs. 

11.43 I think there should be a limit on the number of homes used as holiday homes or airbnbs. 

11.44 Additional rates should be sufficient that they become a burden on the owner.  They should not be seen as just a drop in the ocean!!  

11.45 Homes empty for more than three months should attract double council tax because they are not contributing to the economy of the area nor the needs of the local community.  

11.46 A property in Heath Court, Heath Road, Brixham has been empty for around 20 years, it has become dilapidated and an eyesore. This would be a lovely 3 bed house for one of the homeless families in Brixham.   

11.47 Searches take too long, selling is a real delay. Can you move along probate? Seems to be deaths and subsequent disputes cause many properties to be empty long term 

11.48 It is a disgrace that homes are lying empty (and this includes 2nd homes that are only used occasionally for the owners holiday) when our precious green fields are being built on harming the environment, flora and fauna and ordinary people cannot possibly afford the price of the new homes being built.  Use compulsory purchase orders. 

11.49 Stop using bullying tactics, enforcement threats, stop funding white elephants use the council tax collected on empty property for development of empty property.   

11.50 XXXX House has been left to rot for around 12 years, it's in a prime location for social housing? instead of building fancy new hotels, the people that work in the hotels are mostly minimum wage and often can't find affordable accommodation if any at all. 

11.51 I firmly believe in redeveloping empty homes and protecting green spaces from being built on. The infrastructure is already in situ (at little, to no additional cost) and of course the public amenities such as drs, schools, shops, bus routes etc. have already been established to accommodate empty homes. 

11.52 I think the council should offer to buy empty homes that have been on the market for more than 6 months.  

11.53 It would be great if there was a time limit to how many years a property can remain empty. Suggest this should not exceed 2 years as properties naturally deteriorate from lack of maintenance. Also, some enforcement on how the exterior is maintained, whether occupied or otherwise, remembering we live in a resort. Example is the corner of XXXX Road and XXXX Road Paignton, the state of both property and garden (rusting VW etc.). Would be lovely if you could adopt the Jersey approach. 

11.54 No, I advocate that the Council should not be at liberty to impose Taxes directly on the Public, that was and still is the perogative of The Treasurer and Torbay Council are not Tax Collectors. Torbay Council were only appointed as Rent Collectors. Likewise Retailers are not Tax collectors of the Very Awful Tax (VAT), nor are Employers collectors of Income Tax to be taken out of earnings BEFORE it becomes Income.   

11.55 Communicate with the owner of the empty home and try to find out why it's empty (which is what you're trying to do).  Then offer help if required, but do not use any strong-arm tactics. 

*XXXX - Please note that some of the comments we received were unable to publish, due to censorship and to prevent attracting anti-social behaviour to specific properties.

Contact Empty Homes