A Guide to Refurbishment

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					A guide to refurbishing your empty property


   1. Introduction

   2. Funding the costs of refurbishment
          Tax incentives
          Loan assistance
          Equity release
          Brown mortgages

   3. Things to consider before you start
          Planning ahead
          Planning and Building Consent

   4. Finding a Building Contractor
          Useful tips

   5. Security

   6. Energy efficiency
         Energy saving measures
         Warm and Wise

   7. Property Maintenance
          Inspecting your property

   8. Refurbishing your property for letting

   9. Keeping your property secured and well-maintained

1. Introduction

If you own an empty property that has been unoccupied or needs some minor
(or major) repairs, then follow our simple guide to refurbishment. Whether
you want to refurbish your whole house or simply replace the kitchen, we can
advise you on the way to go about it and the things you must consider.

This guide provides advice on ways to fund the costs of refurbishing your
empty property, including information on loans, tax incentives and specialist
‘brown’ mortgages that may be available to you. It also provides tips on
selecting building contractors, energy efficiency, security measures and
maintaining your home.

2. Funding the Costs of Refurbishment

The costs of refurbishing an empty property can be high and you may need to
raise extra capital to carry out the work. However, it may not be as expensive

as you think. There are several financial incentives available to help you to
fund the costs of refurbishing your empty property.

   Tax incentives

There are ‘tax incentives’ which enable owners of empty properties to claim
reduced VAT rates on the refurbishment costs of bringing an empty property
back into use. This could make the cost of refurbishing your empty property
up to 17.5% cheaper (at the current VAT rate of 17.5%).

You may be able to take advantage of a reduced VAT rate of 5% if your
property has been empty for more than 3 years. If your property has been
empty for over 10 years, you may not have to pay any VAT on the costs of

For example:

   If the property has been empty for between 3 and 10 years and the
    refurbishment costs are £15,000, a saving of £1,875 would be made.

   If the property has been empty for over 10 years, a saving of £2,625 would
    be made, based on the same cost of refurbishment.

The refurbishment work must be carried out by VAT-registered building
contractors. The building contractors can then reclaim the VAT on the
refurbishment costs from HM Customs and Excise, instead of you.

Please note: There are various conditions attached to these tax incentives.
We, therefore, advise you to contact the Inland Revenue to find out if your
property would be eligible for any VAT reduction before you begin any
refurbishment work. For more information, please see the HM Customs and
Excise website, which is available here.

   Loan assistance

Loans may be available towards the cost of refurbishing an empty property.
Interest free loans for essential works are available in certain circumstances
directly from the Council. To ensure that resources are targeted towards
those in greatest housing need, details of your financial position will be
required and you will have to take tenants directly from the Councils housing
allocations list. The loan will normally be repayable within 3 years or will start
to accrue interest. Landlords willing to accept young clients from the
allocations list will benefit from a longer repayment period.

   Equity release

Equity release may be an option and various lenders will consider this.
Bromley Council have, along with other London Boroughs, signed up to
scheme with the Home Improvement Trust which supports older owner

occupiers. For further information about our equity release scheme, please
contact us.

Please contact us for more detailed information on the loans available. We
will send you a questionnaire to fill out to enable us to assess your eligibility.
Loans are only available to individuals and not property companies or those
with a portfolio of properties.

   Brown Mortgages

Some mortgage lenders specialise in lending for the refurbishment of derelict
properties. These are called ‘brown mortgages’. If you need to raise extra
capital to carry out refurbishment works to your empty property, you may be
able to take advantage of the mortgages offered by these specialist lenders.

Please contact us if you would like details of the lenders that provide these
types of loan.

3. Things to consider before you start

   Planning Ahead

Firstly, you need to plan what work needs to be done. If the job is on a large
scale or is very complicated, you may need to seek professional advice from
an architect or a surveyor. They can also help develop your plans and
manage the project for you.

The works need to be carefully planned and designed before you can start.
You may need to employ an architect/surveyor to finalise the designs before
appointing a building contractor to carry out the works.

Finally, let neighbours know about any work you are intending to carry out. If
you are intending on carrying out work on an existing wall or structure shared
with a neighbouring property (a party wall), you will need to seek advice.
Please contact us for a booklet that explains your duties under the Party Wall
Act 1996.

   Planning and Building Consent

You need to consider if the changes you are intending to make to your
property will require planning or building consent. Further information can be
obtained from our Planning Department. If you are employing an architect or
a surveyor they can arrange this for you.

          Planning Permission may be required for any substantial work to
           the property, such as an extension or new access to the property.
           If the building is listed or is within a conservation area, you will
           need to apply for Listed Building Consent or Conservation Area
           Consent as well as planning permission.

           Building Regulations Consent may be required for changes to the
            structure or the services of the property, such as an internal wall or
            a sewer connection

4. Finding a Building Contractor

   Useful tips

Refurbishing your empty property is an important investment so choosing the
right building contractor to carry out the work for you is an important decision.

Selecting a building contractor is a potential minefield. There are many
builders and it is difficult to ensure that the quality of their work will be of a
high standard or that they have the appropriate skills to undertake all of the

There are many ways of searching for the contractor that is right for you and
your project. We can provide you with a list of builders that have undertaken
grant work. Alternatively some of the companies and trade associations
operate insurance backed guarantees. You do need to check that they are a
member of the appropriate body and the scope of any guarantee offered.
Contact us for a list of builders who may be able to assist. There is also a
Quality Mark scheme which offers protection against poor workmanship.
Further details are available from the Quality Mark website, which is available
here. Alternatively, you could search in Yellow pages or ask friends and
neighbours if they can recommend anyone.

You could also look for a builder who is a member of the Federation of Master
Builders (FMB), a trade association that promotes higher standards among
small and medium sized building firms. You can search for an FMB-
registered builder in your area on the website, which is available here.

When selecting a builder, bear in mind the following useful tips:

           Ask to look at examples of the builder’s previous work: If their work
            is to a high standard they should be willing to show you. You could
            also ask their previous clients if they were satisfied with the
            builder’s work.

           Use contractors that belong to a trade association to guarantee the
            quality of the workmanship and give you some extra security.
            Some associations have protection schemes and may also be able
            to help to resolve any disputes between the builder and yourself.
            Others require a fee to become a member.

           Get a written quote for the costs of your project from more than
            one building contractor so you can compare prices. Make sure
            they give you a quote for a fixed price, not an estimate. Ensure
            that the quote sets out exactly what they will do, including issues
            such as removal of rubbish/ building materials from the site and

           clearing up afterwards. You are not under any obligation to use a
           builder who has given you a quote.

          Do not accept an estimate from a builder who has not visited the
           property a detailed inspection of the property is needed before an
           estimate can be made.

          Don’t be pressurised by builders into carrying out any unnecessary

          Check that the contractor is insured for damage to work and
           materials and to you and your neighbours’ property.

          You may of course need several different tradesmen for the job. If
           you need to employ an engineer to install or check gas appliances,
           make sure that they are CORGI-registered.

          Be wary of builders who knock on your door or ring you up and do
           not have premises that you can visit: Anyone can claim to be a

          Don’t pay for the work in advance. It is not however unreasonable
           to pay for work in stages, but do not pay for more than has already
           been completed.

          Finally, make sure you are happy with the builder you choose and
           you can trust them.

   Finalising the Work

Remember that the design and specification of the works must be finalised
before a building contractor is appointed. The cost estimates must also be
finalised, allowing for a contingency provision.

Short-list a number of contractors and weigh up their proposals. After
choosing the quotation that offers the best value (which is not always the
lowest price), it is advisable to draw up a written contract with the builder you
have chosen.

A written contract will need to detail exactly the work to be done, start and
finish dates, details of any guarantees and the price that you have agreed.
You will also need to arrange how the work will be paid for; avoid paying a
large sum up front. However, a small deposit may be required and for large
projects, payment may be required in stages. You may need to seek legal
advice when drawing up a contract.

5. Security

When you refurbish your property, it is advisable to install additional security
measures to keep your property safe and secure.

We advise you to:
   Contact your local police station for advice on security measures.
   Fit a burglar alarm system to the property and register it with the Local
     Authority and Police.
   Fit good quality locks together with deadlocks to the front and back
     entrance doors.
   Fit a security light with a sensor to dimly lit areas. They attract people’s
     attention and deter burglars. Be aware and set them such that they do
     not cause nuisance to neighbours.
   Make sure the builder will leave the house secure each night especially
     to prevent access to inquisitive children.

6. Energy Efficiency

It is advisable to install energy efficient products and use energy saving
measures in your refurbished property as these will save you money on
energy costs and reduce wasted energy.

   Energy Saving Measures

Here are some energy saving measures that you might want to consider:

          Loft Insulation: More than 50 % of heat loss is through loft spaces
           and walls. Loft Insulation is the easiest and most cost effective
           energy efficiency measure you can take. Installing loft insulation to
           a depth of at least 8” (200mm) will save you up to 30% of your
           heating costs for as little as £75.

          Cavity wall insulation: This can reduce heat loss through the walls
           by up to 50%.

          Floor Insulation: Installing under floor insulation and filling the gaps
           between skirting boards and floors will prevent heat loss through
           the floors.

          Fit a modern energy efficient boiler if the current boiler is unreliable
           or over 15 years old. Condensing boilers and fan-assisted boilers
           are energy efficient.

          Installing heating controls improves the efficiency of the heating

          Double Glazing reduces the amount of heat lost through the
           window and it will also help to reduce noise. Alternatively, you
           could install secondary glazing, which is less expensive.

          Appliances: The EC has a labelling scheme for fridges, freezers,
           washing machines and tumble dryers. It rates the energy
           efficiency of the appliance between A and G. ‘A’ is the most

           energy efficient and can use up to half the energy of a similar ‘G’
           rated model. Therefore buy appliances as close as possible to ‘A’.

There are many other energy saving measures at little or no cost that will
make your property more energy efficient and save you money on fuel bills.

   Warm And Wise

There are a number of grant and discount schemes including the Council's
own discount scheme for heating and insulation, Warm and Wise, operating in
Bromley. For information on other energy grants and discount schemes,
please see our webpages, which are available here.

Here are a few low cost energy saving measures:

          Fit energy saving light bulbs. Fluorescent tubes are slightly more
           expensive but will save even more energy.

          Fit an insulating jacket to your hot water tank and insulate hot
           water pipes.

          Fix a brush seal or PVC seal to the exterior door to eliminate

          Make sure single glazed windows are draught proofed

7. Property Maintenance

After your property has been refurbished, you should keep the property well
maintained to prevent it from falling into disrepair and to protect your
investment. Keeping on top of maintenance will save you money on repairs in
the long run.

You should regularly inspect:

   The outside of the property: Check that the chimney, lead flashings and
    roof coverings are all in place and secure and not allowing water to leak
    into the property.

   Overflows, gutters and downpipes: For leaks and cracks, as this could
    cause damage to brickwork.

   Windows and doors for correct fitting and for cracked paintwork, which
    will allow water to penetrate the frames and cause rot.

   Air grates and damp-proof course to ensure they are not blocked or
    covered by any debris in order to prevent rising damp.

   Gas appliances should be checked for safety at least every 12 months by
    a CORGI-registered installer. Do not attempt to check or repair a gas
    appliance yourself.

8. Refurbishing your property for letting

If you are thinking about letting your property once it has been refurbished,
please see our ‘Guide to letting your empty property’, which is available here.
The guide contains advice on the different ways of letting your property to
help you to decide which option would be best for you. If you are intending on
letting the property, there are several things you might want to consider whilst
you are carrying out any refurbishment works:

   Try to ignore personal preferences when selecting fixtures and fittings
    and when decorating. To make the property appeal to as many tenants as
    possible use light and neutral colours rather than dark or bright colours
    and simple styles. It is important that the kitchen and bathroom look
    clean and spacious.

   The exterior of the property is generally less important to tenants, so it
    may not be worth investing a large some of money on aesthetic
    improvements to the outside of the property. However, the structure and
    exterior of the property must still conform to regulations. It is also
    advisable to keep the gardens ‘low maintenance’.

   Most importantly, you must ensure that the property conforms to all the
    health and safety regulations required for letting property. Contact the
    Private Sector Housing Team for more information on the standards
    required for letting your property.

9. Keeping your property secured and well-maintained

If, due to personal circumstances, you are unable to occupy your property
once it has been refurbished, you must make sure that the property will be
secure and well maintained in your absence. When the property is vacant, it
could become a target for crime and anti-social behaviour and may fall back
into disrepair.

To help to prevent such problems, whilst the property is unoccupied you

   Have the property inspected for damage regularly.
   Arrange adequate insurance to cover any damage, such as vandalism to
    the property or arson.
   Arrange for the gardens to be maintained.
   Make the property appear to be occupied, for example, by hanging
    curtains. This discourages vandalism.
   Install security measures, such as a burglar alarm and locked gates to the

   Give neighbours a telephone number so that you can be contacted in an