Report an empty property

Empty homes can attract squatters, vandals and other forms of anti-social behaviour. Neglected gardens can become overgrown which has an impact on neighbouring properties. In extreme cases, the property becomes dangerous and a risk to public safety. Bringing an empty, private property back into use benefits the property owner and the wider community. 

This service does not cover council or housing association properties in the borough, only privately owned properties.

Reporting an empty property

We are particularly interested in private properties that have been empty for over 12 months. We will investigate and contact the owner to try to bring the property back into use. Where appropriate, enforcement powers may be used.

To report an empty property,  E-mail: emptyhomes@swindon.gov.uk. Provide as much information as possible about the property, including a full address. This information will help identify what action is needed.

If you own an empty property

We can provide advice and assistance on bringing the property back into use.

Empty property requests

We are frequently asked for lists of all empty properties in the borough.

We do not hold a list of all empty properties however, we do hold information about those properties which we have been advised are empty in relation to Business Rates or Council Tax.

Exemption under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, Section 31 – Law Enforcement

We are unable to provide names of businesses or addresses of empty commercial and residential properties as we consider disclosing this information would make them a target of crime. This information is therefore exempt from disclosure under section 31 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Pursuant to section 31(1)(a) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOI Act), public authorities are not obliged to release information that would be likely to prejudice the functions of law enforcement- namely the prevention and detection of crime.

Enquiries have been made with Wiltshire Police and Dorset & Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Service, both of whom indicate the release of this type of information where buildings are situated, would increase the potential for:

  • buildings to be targeted by squatters
  • buildings to be targeted by criminals or terrorists intent on hiding or depositing proceeds of crime of terrorist materials
  • premises to be identified as short-term hiding places by criminals or terrorists
  • premises to be targeted by vandals or street artists

We have also taken into account the Information Tribunal Case No. EA/2011/0007 ('the Camden case'),  in which the Tribunal was satisfied that the evidence suggests that disclosing this information would have the effect of assisting at least some of those wishing to engage in squatting, leading to an increase in the instances of such activity.

Squatting in residential property has itself become a criminal offence which demonstrates the destructive nature of squatting and the associated crimes. Information on empty commercial properties could also lead to crime associated with squatting such as vandalism and the theft of fixtures and fittings. The Tribunal concluded that an increase in squatting would also lead to various categories of associated criminal activity. As a result the Tribunal found that section 31(1) (a) was engaged in that it was likely that disclosure of the disputed information would have a negative impact on the prevention of crime.

The Information Commissioner’s Office has also re-confirmed section 31 is applicable for information about empty properties in a recent decision involving the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

Section 31 is a qualified exemption and we are obliged to consider the public interest test.

If you require a formal Refusal Notice as set out under Section 17 Freedom of Information Act, that outlines all of the Council’s arguments and how we consider the balance of the public interest lies in this case, you can contact us at the address below.

If you are unhappy with the service you have received in relation to your request and wish to request a review, you should contact us

The complaints and review procedure involves a full review by the Council's Monitoring Officer.  

If you are not content with the outcome of our conclusion, you may apply directly to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) for a decision before contacting the Council. Generally, the ICO cannot make a decision unless you have exhausted the Council's own complaints procedure.

The Information Officer can be contacted at:

The Information Commissioner's Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire
SK9 5AF

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