This briefing paper explains local authorities' powers to tackle privately owned dwellings that have been empty for two years through the use of an Empty Dwelling Management Order.Jump to full report >>
Chapter 2 of Part 4 of the Housing Act 2004 made provision for local authorities to take over management of certain residential premises that had been empty for at least six months by seeking an Empty Dwelling Management Order (EDMO). Residential Property Tribunals (now First-Tier Tribunals) gained the power to issue EDMOs on 6 July 2006.
The aim of EDMOs is to bring empty private sector property back into use. The expectation was that the introduction of EDMOs would persuade owners to bring properties back into use and encourage constructive dialogue between owners and empty property officers around the range of options available. EDMOs were seen as a back-up power to be used as a last resort.
On introduction they attracted a good deal of negative media attention; there were reports that local authorities were seizing properties for seven years and that owners had no right of appeal. DCLG issued a statement to refute these claims.
On 7 January 2011 the then Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, announced an intention to restrict the use of EDMOs in order to “protect civil liberties.” Regulations providing that EDMOs can only be sought where a property has been empty for two years (as opposed to six months), and requiring an authority to give the owner at least three months’ notice of the intention to apply for an order, came into force on 15 November 2012.
Critics of EDMOs argue that they are used very rarely, however they were always envisaged as a last resort. Local authorities will normally engage with owners of empty properties and persuade them to bring properties back into use before using formal powers.
Statistics published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) put the number of empty homes in England in October 2018 at 634,453. This represents a 4.7% increase on the previous year's total. Of the 634,435, 216,186 were classed as long-term empty properties (empty for longer than six months).
Information on wider local authority powers to tackle empty private sector dwellings can be found in Library Briefing Paper 03012, Empty Housing (England).
Commons Briefing papers SN04129
Author: Wendy Wilson
Topic: Empty property