A council is cracking down on ‘buy-to-leave’ homeowners who are cashing in on London’s soaring property prices – by threatening them with prison.
Growing numbers of foreign investors are snapping up British homes as investments and leaving them vacant as their value rises.
In countries such as China bricks and mortar are seen as a better and safer investment than banking.
But many of the property owners have no intention of ever living in their acquisitions, or even renting them out.
One of the most sought-after areas is Islington where the council has vowed to halt ‘buy-to-leave’ investment schemes in the borough.
The authority says a third of all new homes built in the North London borough in the last ten years have been bought by off-shore investors and many of them are left vacant.
They are consulting on ground-breaking new rules which will require such properties to be regularly occupied.
The owners of any left uninhabited for less than 14 days in any three-month period will face legal action such as a High Court injunction.
Persistently breaking the injunction could lead to a fine, prison and even seizure of the empty property.
Cllr James Murray, Islington Council’s executive member for housing and development, said: “In Islington, as across London, there is a desperate shortage of housing.
“It’s wrong when new homes sit there empty purely as investments, when Londoners are desperately trying to find somewhere to live.
“Our new proposals would make sure that all new homes in Islington are occupied – we want to send a message that ‘buy-to-leave’ is unacceptable.”