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Councils that regulate private landlords have 34,000 empty homes

An investigation by Sky News and a housing campaigner have revealed that there are some 33,993 vacant council properties in England alone, the highest number since 2009.

They include several residences that have been sealed off on an estate in Lambeth, south London, for more than two decades and 144 flats in a boarded-up tower block in the bordering borough of Southwark that has been empty since 2015. 

Kwajo Tweneboa, the campaigner working with Sky, has tweeted the top 10 councils that have the most empty publicly-owned homes. Landlord Today has identified the political parties that control the councils in question.


Melton - 1,810; (Independent and Labour coalition)

Southwark - 1,588; (Labour)

Ealing - 1,183; (Labour)

Sheffield - 946; (Labour largest party, no overall majority)

Lambeth - 726; (Labour)

Newham - 688; (Labour)

Gateshead - 618; (Labour)

Leeds - 589; (Labour)

Southampton - 577; (Labour)

Nottingham - 511. (Labour)

Ben Beadle, chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association, tweeted in response: “Appalling. And to think these local authorities are in charge of regulating private rented homes when they literally cannot get their own houses in order.”

Tweneboa told Sky News: "You've got people sleeping on the streets. You've got people who are sleeping in garages and storage containers. Yet we've got thousands of homes sat empty, council homes up and down the country, which aren't being used.

"It makes no sense whatsoever. It's a complete dereliction of duty and failure to care for those that need it most."

The Local Government Association blames a shortage of funding for councils and a spokesperson told Sky News that in many cases "the council doesn't have the money in place to be able to refurbish them and bring them back into use as council homes".

And Lambeth council told Sky: "Lambeth is committed to bringing empty homes back into use as quickly as possible. The majority of our empty properties have been vacant for less than six months."

You can see the full Sky story and video interviews here.

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  • icon

    Perhaps if they charged a realistic rent they would have the necessary money to maintain and refurbish their housing stock.


    All Labour councils. 😱 I wonder what Polly Bleat and Ben Twomey will say. 🤔

  • George Dawes

    Shortage of common sense more like

  • Ian Deaugustine

    I am not surprised at all. How can a party led by a "Sir" care for the needs of poor people? Should the same party provide accessible homes to poor people who cannot deliver?

  • Neil Moores

    I would love to know if these councils are charging themselves premium council tax for keeping these properties empty.


    😂😂 I thought exactly the same, the usual public sector muppets 🤡.

    • A S
    • 10 June 2024 10:15 AM

    Even if they did, councils don't pay. We pay. Every time. In the form of higher taxes and six figure salaries for the council chief execs who continually fail us. We, the Great British public, should be apoplectic about this sort of thing, but we aren't for some reason. The mind boggles. And the longer it continues, the closer we get to the point of no return where fixing it will only happen after a huge (and probably violent) revolution. I'd guess about a decade from now.


    A S - Don’t forget their gold plated pensions. I may be wrong but I think one third of Council Tax is financing existing pensions of retired Council employees.


    I've asked a South yorkshire council that question. The same onea that charge landlords double council tax from day 1 the property is empty.

    No surprise, the law does not apply to them, house builders or banks that have repossessed a house. They pay zero council tax.

    It totally stinks, but with the government out to kill off the prs, I wouldn't expect anything else from the blood sucking leaches.

  • icon

    A good few in Norwich as well (labour/Greens)

  • John Wathen

    Why aren’t Shelter, Gen Rent & all the other useless Lefty agitators all over this like a rash? Could they be prioritising the persecution of decent Private Landlords and deliberately ignoring their criminally incompetent Labour buddies?

    • A S
    • 10 June 2024 10:18 AM

    They are fighting an ideological fight. They aren't interested in real solutions. When fellow landlords realise that this is a fight it is impossible to win for the next 5 year Government term, make your business decisions accordingly.


    John: Answer, absolutely yes! Great post.

  • icon

    looks to me a classic of , DO AS I SAY NOT AS I DO!!!!

  • icon

    They can’t run the Public Housing Sector yet see fit to muscle-in on the Private Renal Sector and cream off billions. They have destroyed us with costs , rules , regulations, penalties, licensing Schemes which contain dozens of conditions removing all landlord rights completely making it virtually impossible to run your business totally without power and at a continuous risk trying to operate under duress with your hands tied behind your back.
    Of Course we have to pay them to destroy us including £1600. Licensing App’ fee alone repeating for them to sublet the keyboard Application process to metastreet software Company that takes about 18 months to deal with it, is Computerisation this in-efficient amazing, what are they doing themselves sitting there dreaming up fines and taking private landlords to Court. no wonder landlords used 21 to get out. Now Guardian News Paper have a nice chat with Polly about that and put her house in order, did someone say there’s a Housing Crisis I wonder why ?.

  • Rob NorthWest-Landlord

    Councils short of cash unable to calculate what every single landlord knows: voids cost you money. In our case we get no rent and pay out all the usual costs, in the councils case they get no rent and no council tax. Double whammy. They have financial chiefs on huge pay packets but can't work this out. A thousand rented homes @ £500 per month rent plus £100 per month tax (lets keep the numbers easy) is going to raise £700,000 a year - and lets assume it saves them a further sum from emergency housing costs of say £100,000.

    So £800k per year to renovate 1000 homes. Our local council borrows money to invest in all sorts of stupid ideas - like an erengy company that went bust - and owes millions. The incompetence is astonishing. Wait until Generation Rant realise that A) councils could do so much more and B) councils by leaving empty homes are driving up private rents

    So perhaps we should be congratulating Labour for helping the PRS achieve ecord rents.


    Much worse than that Rob. It's £700K per MONTH, which is roughly £8.5M per year. It's probably closer to £10M, so about £10K per house, should get the money back over the course of a year or two and then be in credit after that.

  • Sarah Fox-Moore

    "Look, we can't afford to fix the property we own (because we are grossly incompetent and eye wateringly wasteful) so we want to come after yours and either control your property or drive you to sell up with onerous costs & regulations we dont even follow!"

  • icon

    Surely this is the basis for legal challenges against these council


    Agreed, so where is the NRLA? Even more so, why does the Gov allow these ever ongoing levels of gross incompetence?

  • icon

    Its simple economics the councils cannot afford to maintain this properties. Labour London councils are renting flats for as little as £600 pcm compared to the PRS needing to charge £2500 pcm for them to be economically viable. At these rents its impossible for the council to even cover the costs of maintaining the flats let along cover their true costs, so the council is forced to mothball some flats.

    The flats the council are renting out at £600 pcm are effectively being subsidised by other tax payers.

    Its economic madness, but these councils don't want to change the rental rates to true market value, as the tenants in these flats are captive labour voters.


    I wonder why the present govt hasn't legislated that council rents should be at least 90% of PRS and some of the extra money can be used to support those with lower incomes via housing benefit like in the private sector? The rest can then be used to build more stock or refurbishing existing property. And get rid of RTB in its current form, maybe 1% discount for each year up to a maximum of 20%? Should be a win-win after that!

  • icon

    You could not make this fiasco up, and this is just one area where the Government have wrecked an industry. We also know that this is not rocket science.
    These Politicians are in it to line their own pockets.
    We need a seismic change. There are no guarantees but i will take a punt on Reform. I was even out leaflet dropping yesterday and will be doing the same today.


    Well done Andy. Reform will be getting my vote.


    I'll be voting for Reform too!

  • Jaeger  Von Toogood

    What do you expect with labour run areas? Soon to be nationwide! I foresee a much bigger homelessness issue in the making under labour. So predictable.

  • icon

    All Labour councils. What a shocker.

  • icon

    Perhaps if they sold off half into private hands, landlords or not, and use the revenue to renovate the rest. Bingo, another 34 000 homes in the uk.

  • icon

    Yep all labour and will just get worse . But why are they empty? All they can do is clobber us PLL’S.


    "Why are they empty?" Because the labour councils rents are so low, that they cannot afford to even maintain the properties, so they mothball the properties. Whilst blaming central government for not providing them with sufficient funds.

    It all a political game, keep rents artificially low, resulting in these council tenants being captive labour voters.

  • icon

    It seems that Labour councils could not care less for the homeless, even knowing that it is their responsibilities to house them. They cannot maintain or administer the properties, but they expect a lot of private landlords and charge license fees. They have no clue on how to work on the properties forbthe social tenants. I cannot understand why preach, what they cannot practice. License fees should not be paid until they get their own responsibilities seriously. Clearly, reaping off the landlords and tenants both.

  • Rob NorthWest-Landlord

    I've just realised that all these councils probably have an "Empty homes team" who hassle private landlords while you refurbish between tenants. Oh the irony.


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