Powers of Local Authorities in Relation to Empty Buildings

The Housing Act 2004 enables Local Authorities to acquire powers to manage (rather than acquire) empty residential properties (dwellings) by making EDMOs. (Empty Dwellings Managements Orders). This came into force in April 2006 and so is relatively new and untested.

An EDMO can be made where:

  • The dwelling had been unoccupied for at least 6 months
  • There is no reasonable prospect of it being occupied
  • If an interim EDMO were made, there would be a reasonable prospect that the dwelling will become occupied

The Local Authority (LA) must make reasonable efforts to notify the owner and has ascertained what steps the owner has made or intends to make to ensure the dwelling is occupied.

There are a number of circumstances where an EDMO cannot be made including:

  • The owner is absent because he is in care or is providing care or is a member of the armed forces
  • The dwelling is used as a holiday home
  • It is on the market
  • It is used as staff accommodation
  • It has a mortgagee in possession (That means that a mortgage company has taken actual possession)
  • Where the owner died and more than 6 months after grant of probate has not elapsed

An interim order is made first. The LA must seek authorisation from a Residential Property Tribunal. The LA must show a number of elements as well as basic eligibility and the relevant specific circumstances that made an EDMO appropriate. Although not a bar, where the owner was undertaking repairs or making structural alterations, the LA would have to show why it was nevertheless appropriate.

An interim order lasts up to 12 months. At that stage the LA must ensure the dwelling becomes occupied, and must manage the dwelling. The LA must then either discharge the EDMO or make a final order which can last up to 7 years.

Under the EDMO the LA can:

  • Take possession of the dwelling
  • Do anything an owner would be entitled to do
  • Let it (if the EDMO is interim then only subject to the owner’s consent)
  • Terminate any lease or licence

There are a number of safeguards in place for the owner. The LA has to undergo a number of hoops, the owner retains certain rights and entitlements to rents and has certain rights of appeal.

The legislation currently comprises of:

Housing Act 2004 (Part 4) Housing (Empty Dwelling Managements Orders) (Prescribed Exceptions and Requirements ) England) Order 2006

The law and practice referred to in this article has been paraphrased or summarised. It might not be up-to-date with changes in the law and we do not guarantee the accuracy of any information provided at the time of reading. It should not be construed or relied upon as legal advice in relation to a specific set of circumstances.

The Legal 500 - The Clients Guide to Law Firms

UK Chambers logo

Best Companies - One to watch logo