Of course 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.
A number of laws can be used against the owners of empty homes to encourage them to bring their properties up to a decent standard, particularly when failure to do so would have negative impacts on the wider community. The action taken and any advice or assistance given will depend on any 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 and/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
There is other legislation that might be recommended to bring an empty home back into use for housing need:
EDMO (Empty Dwelling Management Order)
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 (S30) 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)
Similar to an enforced sale, a CPO is another option available to the local authority and demonstrates a zero tolerance towards empty properties.
Again, absentee landlords of empty properties, particularly those in a very poor state of repair may find they lose ownership of that property if the local authority decides to dispose of it on the open market or to a housing association. CPOs can be made under S17 of the Housing Act 1985 or under S226 (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.
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