We always prefer to work directly with owners to bring homes back into use on a voluntary basis but sometimes the enforcement route has to be considered. Laws can be used to encourage homeowners to bring their properties up to a decent standard. The action taken and any advice given will depend on previous enforcement action taken against the owners or their property.
Some of the legislation that may be used:
- Town and Country Planning Act 1990 - to gain entry to or dispose of a property
- Building Act 1984 Sections 77-79 - for dilapidated or dangerous buildings and sites
- Housing Act 2004 - several sections may be used under this act depending on the severity of the problem; from improvement notices to demolition orders
- Environmental Protection Act 1990 - Section 79-81 where a premises causes a health risk or nuisance and repair work is required to make it safe
- Prevention of Damage by Pest Act 1949 - Section 4 might be used
- Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982 - Section 29 is used where a property is open to access but also this act may be used to request information from the owners of properties
Empty Dwelling Management Order (EDMO)
Introduced in the Housing Act 2004, an EDMO means management of the property is granted to the local authority or a nominated agent, usually a Housing Association, for up to 7 years. The owner is not entitled to receive any rent or other payments from anyone occupying the dwelling and may not exercise any rights to manage the dwelling whilst an EDMO is in force. An EDMO is applied as a local land charge and the details entered on the Land Registry.
The Law and Property Act 1925 (Section 30) allows local authorities to recover charges and debts owed to it through the sale of a property. Any notices that have been served on an owner, which result in the local authority completing the work on the property, will incur a land charge. If this is on an empty house, and the owner fails to pay the debt or bring the property back into use, the local authority can enforce a sale. The owner will no longer have ownership of the property which may be put up in a local property auction.
Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO)
A CPO demonstrates a zero tolerance towards empty properties. Absentee landlords of empty properties, particularly those in a very poor state of repair, may find they lose ownership if the local authority decides to dispose of the property on the open market or to a housing association. CPOs can be made under Section 17 of the Housing Act 1985 or under Section 226 (as amended by Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, for the provision of housing accommodation or to improve existing housing.
You can find full legislation on the Government website.