I’m dealing with an empty boat. It is a dwelling in Council Tax and Planning terms. The boat/dwelling/hereditament is a 30ft long, 70-year old military launch with a felt flat roof that has been jacked up on blocks since the 1950s. It stands on a Thames-side patch of flood-plain, 50ft by 50ft with vehicular access. It was occupied by a couple for 50 years until the Millennium. It has never had electricity, mains water or sewage. It is not lived in now, but is used as a summer house. The launch can’t be moved without breaking it up. Scuppering is not an option.

The owners do not wish to kit it out as a dwelling as it is uninhabitable and beyond economic repair. They do however wish to keep its current residential use class (so it remains Council tax liable). It is assumed that the value of the plot is greater if it still has the ‘dwelling’ on it than if were just an empty private riverside plot.

It is my 6th longest running registered LTE. LTE Premium is paid. I’d love to see it off my LTE list. But how?

What would your aims be if you had this one on your action list?

What would you do with this one?

Who are you going to work with to achieve your aims?

Should I just leave it as it is?


Hi Nick,

That's an interesting old chestnut - absolutely fascinating though!  It got my little brain cells working this morning.

As the owners are determined to hold onto their 'summer house' and land my only suggestion would be this -  maybe they could sell the land but have a legal agreement drawn up with a condition that the new owner 'leases' back the summer house to them for their lifetime/specified amount of years.  That way the owners could continue to enjoy use of their unusual summer house, but by selling the land it could release capital for them to enjoy during their lifetime...

Hold on, another little brain cell has just kicked in! - is the military launch 'furnished' at all?  At least if it was, you could move it to an empty/furnished 2nd home and get NHB (and also save them the premium) ?

I'm sure there are many others in our empty homes world who can come up with much more creative ideas than these....??

Lynne Campbell, Empty Homes officer, South Lakeland District Council



Lynne Leach


I can think of no-one else that would have an empty boat on their patch. My first thoughts are reflected in Lynn's comments. If no-one is complaining about it and it is of no detriment to the area could it be considered a second home?


Sue Li

Compulsory Purchase and Enforcement Officer

Derby City Council

Council Tax Inspector says that they won't class it as a Second Home because it lacks the facilities to be one. Which makes me wonder why it's considered as a home in the first place.

The Cert of Lawful Use establishes that locating a 30ft boat on the land as a dwelling is lawful. Replacing the boat with a fixed structure would require Planning Consent.

Flood Plain restrictions mean that Planning Consent for residential new build would be beyond unlikely.

I wonder whether there is any point in the owner believing that the Cert of Lawful Use adds value to the site?

What should I do now?

Nick P-G
Reading BC


Being as the boat doesn't have full facilities could you not apply to the valuation office and have it removed as a viable premises? At least it'd be off your LTE list and as Council tax are not willing to class it as a 2nd home in the first place........

Hi Nick

I think you have it the nail on the head as regards the value of the certificate of lawful use and planning. But it is a planning question and they would need to take a planning consultant's advice.

If the boat could be removed and replaced by another boat (relying ont the cert. of lawful use) then it would seem to have some value. If the boat could be repaired then it would also seem to have a value. If it could be replaced by another temporary structure it might also have a value though it sounds as though you'd want something that would float. Otherwise it is difficult to see what value it could have if no permanent residence could be built there (flood plain) or because it is not otherwise suitable for housing ("isolated dwelling in open country"). There is a question in my mind about whether a certificate of lawful use can be considered to expire if the "lawful use" is not continuing (and we are talking 15 years here). All these are questions that cluster around the CFLU and are for a planning consultant (or anyone amongst our members who feels expert enough to comment!).

If the owners already have up-to-date and detailed advice then all well and good - it would be useful for you to find out what it is.  If not (eg if it dates back to when they used to live there and is not specific about the need for continuing occupation)  then I think it would be appropriate for you to suggest they might seek up-to-date advice. That would likely be cheaper than Council Tax plus empty homes premium. Obviously you have to be wary of offering bad advice and a planning consultant would cost them money. So any such suggestion would need to be gentle indeed, I would have thought. 

Before that, you could also yourself go onto the Planning Advisory Service section on Knowledgehub and post a question there, which might throw some light on some of the questions indicated above.

If it has no value then Paul's suggestion seems the obvious way to go.  Beyond that, I cannot see that Council tax department has the discretion to use criteria other than those listed in the regulations about what constitutes a "second home".

From the point of view of principle, if there is a dwelling that can be brought back into use it is an empty homes project. If the dwelling is not habitable or repairable, ie if it could only be replaced by another then it is really a development project, no different in principle from an empty site (leaving aside political pressures on empty homes practitioners to do something about dereliction).   Thus I think you, as an empty homes practitioner, can relinquish the case with good conscience if re-occupation of this boat-like entity is not a practical option.


I'm afraid I haven't got anything helpful to add to this but just wanted to say that I found it really interesting and to ask Nick to please let us know what the final outcome is.

Many thanks Hilary


Planners advise that the only sure fire way to find out of Full Planning Consent could be awarded is by ... making a Pre-App Application.

The owner will seek advice of a Planning Consultant to determine whether the perceived potential value of the CLU really exists. If they beleive the CLU to be worthless in development terms, they'll apply to the Valuation Office to delist the hereditament. They'll then retain the antique boat as a summer house without facilities.


Thanks for everyone's help and I hope we've learned a little along the way.

PS. I've a Class R unoccupied permanent mooring on my patch as well!

Nick P-G
Reading BC

Recall my LTEP empty WWII landing craft? The mission is on. With an empty home loan from the Council, the owner can afford a total refurb that includes connection to water, electrics and sewage. It wasn't ready for the D-Day 75th, but it will be in time for VE-Day 75th next year. It's a cracker. If the Thames does suddenly rise 10 feet, the house will just rise up too.

There should be a photo attached, but I'm being dim.

Nick P-G
Reading BC

12 out of 10 for perseverance, Nick, and it just reinforces to all us empty homes officers that we have to play the long game sometimes to get a result!

Lynne Leach, South Lakeland District Council

Lynne Leach