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What To Do With Utilities When a House or Commercial Property Is Vacant?

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This guide covers what to do with utilities when a commercial property or a home is vacant to help you decide how to manage your property.

Managing an empty property isn’t easy, particularly with decisions such as whether to disconnect the utilities or pay standing charges.

On one hand, it is inconvenient and expensive to have utilities disconnected.  The primary benefit is that you don’t have to pay their standing charges for water, gas, and electricity. 

You’ll still have to pay for the business rates or council taxes as, unfortunately, there’s no empty property rates relief.  Some councils are charging up to 200% of normal council tax for an empty home in a bid to encourage homes to be lived in.

The flip side is that it makes the property less appealing when it comes to selling, as any buyer will have to factor in reconnection charges and delays with utility companies to reconnect.  An important factor is that lenders see a house with disconnected utilities as uninhabitable and thus unmortgageable.

Table of Contents

What to do when leaving your home vacant?

Whether you have inherited a home or wish to sell an empty commercial property, your goal should be to minimise utility costs, look after the property with regular maintenance, and mitigate against risks of unlawful break-ins, vandalism, arson, flooding through escape of water or gas leaks.

With empty properties being targeted by professional criminals looking to set up cannabis factories, there are several factors to consider, including:

  • The anticipated timeframe a property will be vacant
  • Estimated costs associated with the utilities and the council tax
  • Risks of leaving the utilities on, such as water supply in winter months
  • Potential damage to the property in the form of damp or decay as the property is left unheated for an extensive period
  • Risk of squatters moving in to use electricity and hot running water.

What to do about utilities when selling a house?

An obvious issue of leaving utilities running in an empty property is the cost.  You won’t incur any unit usage, but you will still have to pay for:

  • Standing charges – these are applied daily;
  • Monthly connection charges – these may be applied with Smart Meters;
  • Estimate usage fees calculated on prior months.

Whether it is an unoccupied commercial property or an empty home, there are still costs involved in leaving utilities running.

Problems can compound when a property is connected to utilities, leading to damp conditions because of a lack of heating.

If you can isolate and switch off utilities without disconnecting them and drain out any water from your pipes, you’ll be in a much better position to turn on utilities once a property is sold or re-occupied.

The cost of disconnecting and reconnecting still exceeds paying for standing charges.  Your insurance company will insist that you carry out regular inspections and risk assessments, often every week or restrict your cover substantially.

A row of empty shops with flats above
A row of empty shops with flats above

Advantages of draining down utilities on an empty property

Permanently cutting off heating and electricity isn’t the best option because there will be additional charges for reconnection plus a delay when you have a tenant or a buyer.

One possible alternative is using a professional plumber to isolate the water supply and drain all pipes.  A full drain down means stopping the water supply at the stopcock and removing all water from the system.

This is a great way of mitigating burst pipes in the water.  Pipes explode when the excess water freezes and expands without heating to control the temperature.  If the pipes are empty, then there’s no water to freeze and thus avoiding the impact of thousands of litres of water causing huge damage to fixtures & fittings.

Another option is to leave your heating on at a low level with an isolated water supply, which means there’s little chance of mould and dampness.

Risks associated with leaving utilities connected

There are several compelling reasons to isolate utilities and drain down the water system, especially if you expect the property to remain vacant for a considerable time:

  • Electricity supplies to unmonitored properties may cause sparks, resulting in a fire with additional danger of explosion with flammable gases.
  • Empty homes or commercial properties are an active target for squatters seeking ‘free’ water, gas and electricity
  • Criminal gangs look for empty properties that can be converted into cannabis factories
  • Live water supplies can result in leaks, flooding and substantial damage to structural joists and supports
  • Frozen pipe can explode, resulting in an expensive repair bill

Whether you own a residential home or a commercial building, isolation of utilities and drain down is recommended.  This is often an insurance requirement, along with regular visits to the property.  If you live far away from the property and looking to sell, we can agree to buy your property in ‘as is’ condition and take care of these issues.

When a property is empty, you are liable for public injury claims.  Whether a criminal or a curious child enters a vacant property and becomes injured due to fire, electricity or gas sparks, the owner becomes liable by ambulance chasing solicitors.

What to do with electric when selling house?

The first thing to do is contact your utilities suppliers letting them know that you are selling.  Once the sale is completed, you must provide them with the final meter readings and your forwarding address.

Pay the bill on receipt and look into best priced utility providers by searching the market.

Advantages of draining down utilities on an empty property
We are genuine house buyers for houses as is, so the condition of the property is not important to us.

Can Property Saviour help at all?

Do you need to sell your house quickly because of time pressure? For example, you are looking to move abroad, must sell property now to release funds, or looking to take advantage of favourable tax conditions.

We are genuine house buyers for houses as is, so the condition of the property is not important to us. We also buy commercial investment properties across England and Wales. Selling a house quickly is not easy on the open market, and because we pay cash for houses, we will buy your house in 7 days.

Property Saviour are one of very few genuine cash house buyers. If you need to sell your home quickly, we will aim to exchange contracts within 7 days and complete at a timeframe that fits in with your plans. We will also pay £1,500 to cover your legal fees, so there’s no cost to you to sell your house online.

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