Assistance and enforcement for empty property owners

There are many reasons why properties are left empty. The property may be going through probate or the owner may have gone into residential care or become bankrupt. Details are available regarding our list of council tax exemptions.

If a property is empty, it is always our intention to work alongside the owners on a voluntary basis and provide assistance where possible. This can include:

  • Empty Property assistance, which provides advice and support to work towards returning the property back into use, this may included financial assistance, enforcement action is a last resort.
  • Report an empty property, If there is a home in your neighbourhood that has been left vacant and you are concerned about it, we want to know.
  • Landlord Accreditation Scheme, which provides support to existing and prospective landlords on all stages of the letting process.
  • Rental Bond Scheme, this is a non-cash deposit in the form of a written bond guarantee. It is an alternative to a cash deposit and is aimed at people looking for a home in the private rented sector who are in housing need and in receipt of a low income on benefits. Bonds can only be used on properties owned by a landlord who is a member of the accredited landlord scheme.
  • Environmental Crime can assist with a range of issues associated with empty properties such as illegal fly tipping and graffiti.
  • The council delivers an extensive range of property services from pre-application planning advice, securing your property through to comprehensive project management, scheme delivery and disposal. Any empty properties that the team acquire are disposed of through the property section of the council.

Every Local Authority has a duty to provide information, guidance and general support to owners of empty properties. Through this support the majority of properties can be returned to use, however, where negotiations with an owner have failed there are a number of powers available to make sure the property is brought back into use.

The decision to take further action will depend on the individual circumstances of the case and factors such as the length of time a property has been empty and previous correspondence with the Local Authority.

Some of the common actions may include:

Unsightly land and property affecting the amenity of the area

Section 215 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 provides the local planning authority with the power to take steps requiring land to be cleaned up when its condition adversely affects the amenity of the area.

Dangerous or dilapidated buildings and poor property conditions

The city council have various pieces of legislation which provide legal powers to deal with privately owned empty properties that are causing a hazard or a nuisance. Ultimately, if the owner fails to carry out the required works then the city council can either carry out the works in default or prosecute the owner, or do both. In these events a land charge will be placed on the property to recoup the costs.

Unsecured and opened to access

The Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982 s.29 gives the local authority the power to undertake works in connection with the building for the purpose of preventing unauthorised entry to it, or for the purpose of preventing it becoming a danger to public health.

Acquisition of land and property

Enforced sales process - This is a process by which the council brings about the sale of a privately owned house that has incurred debts towards the council.

Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMOs) were introduced under the Housing Act 2004. The local authority applies to take over the management of the property, carrying out works if required and then renting out the property. Management and any refurbishment costs can be reclaimed from the rental income with any outstanding balance going to the owner.

A compulsory purchase order is used as a last resort where all other routes have failed. It allows local authorities the power to take over land, houses or other properties to increase the number of houses available or improve the quality of the housing stock. The main uses of this power are to obtain land for housing. This includes bringing empty properties back into use as homes, and improving substandard ones.

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