How the council brings empty properties back into use
Current Policy Tools
The council’s approach to tackling the issue of empty properties has been one of positive intervention and involves, in the first instance, offering owners information, advice on all the options available to them, determining whether the owner would be entitled to financial assistance to bring a property up to a reasonable standard, and only resorting to enforcement action where absolutely necessary.
All the current policy tools that will help us achieve the strategy aim and objectives are listed below:
Information and Advice
Once the owner of an empty home has been identified, we will aim to encourage them to bring the property back into use voluntarily. The council has developed a range of tools that can be used to assist those wishing to bring their properties back into use. The empty homes officer will offer assistance such as advice and information on the range of options available to the owner of an empty home. Once the initial support has been provided the empty homes officer will remain in touch with the owner and ensure that the property is successfully brought back into use.
All empty homes targeted for action will be inspected externally to establish what condition they are in and whether they cause a nuisance to adjoining properties and neighbours. Further action will be considered based upon the outcome of the inspection. Internal inspections will be carried out with the agreement of the owner.
Empty Home Loans
Empty home loans may be regarded as 5 year, bridging finance secured by a first or, in some circumstances, second charge on the property. Applications are processed on a non status basis, although a credit check is carried out and a very poor credit rating may result in the application being declined. Bankruptcy will automatically prevent us from making a loan. They are available to owners of empty properties and anybody wishing to purchase an empty property. After the work has been completed you may let the property or use it as your own residence.
Private Sector Leasing (PSL)
The council runs a scheme in partnership with Genesis Housing Association that manages and maintains the property on the owner’s behalf. As part of the scheme private property owners are matched to families in urgent need of rented accommodation in an attempt to provide them with a home that meets their needs.
Landlords participating in the scheme would receive a guaranteed income for 52 weeks of the year with day-to-day repairs carried out by the Housing Association. At the end of the agreed period the property is returned to the owner vacant and in its original condition.
Rent Deposit Scheme
This scheme helps people in housing need access good quality accommodation. Many prospective tenants do not have the necessary funds to provide a landlord with a deposit. The council can provide a deposit guarantee to the landlord. This can help in encouraging an owner or landlord to bring the property back into use.
Where the owners of empty properties decline all offers of help and advice on how to bring their property back into effective use we will consider the use of enforcement powers to remedy the situation. It should be noted that the use of enforcement powers alone may not result in the re-occupation of the property, but may help to address any immediate risks posed by the property.
Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO)
The council also has the power to acquire buildings and land through Compulsory Purchase with the aim of providing additional accommodation. The council is committed to the use of its compulsory purchase powers as the last resort only. However, in order to use them there must be strong evidence concerning the circumstances of an unoccupied house, including the length of time it has been empty and the reluctance of the owner to take any steps to bring the property back into use.
Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMOs)
This is a new power, under the Housing Act 2004 and is designed specifically for bringing empty homes back into use. This power became available on 6 July 2006 and enables local authorities to take management control of the empty property, taking away the rights of the owner, and let the property for a period of up to 7 years. The local authority, in partnership with a housing association, will be able to make the necessary repairs to the property, the cost of which will be reclaimed by the rent charged over the period of the lease.
Where an empty home has a Legal Charge against it, the sale of the property can be forced so that the charges can be recovered. Legal charges are placed on a property to recover the costs of ‘Works in Default’ carried out by the council when a legal notice has not been complied with. This is an option available as a last resort for bringing an empty home back into use and will be carefully considered for use in appropriate cases.
Date Updated: 24/11/11