The Government have today released guidance to local authorities on using empty dwelling management orders. And the Conservatives have responded with a new press release entitled "Prescott's home grab laws seize furniture & heirlooms of the dead" (it’s not on their website) Again there are some misleading comments and inaccuracies that need to be cleared up:
They say: Furniture snatched: The state has the right to possess furniture, fixtures and fittings, when the home is seized, including if the property is grabbed because the owner is dead.
This is misleading. What the power does is put the responsibility of looking after any contents in a property where an EDMO has been made onto the local authority. They have to give it back to the owner if the owner requests it.
They say: Seized for seven years: Under the Orders a private home can be seized for up to seven years; 28 days after an Order is granted, there is no right of appeal.
There is a right of appeal like all legislation there is an appeal period in this case it is 28 days
They say: Homes in good condition seized: A home does not have to be blighted or boarded up to be seized, merely empty for six months - including homes of the recently deceased.
There is an exemption for properties of the recently deceased that covers the whole period of probate however long that lasts and for a further 6 months after that
They say: Confiscated for asking too much: Homes already on the property market can be seized if a council thinks the asking price is 'unrealistic'.
Arguably true, but the point is there is a test of whether properties are genuinely for sale. It is the RPT not the council who decide.
They say: Owners can be charged for having their home seized: Once seized, there is no obligation to obtain a market rent, and social tenants can be housed in the property. The owner can even be charged and billed for their property being seized, if service/standing charges are greater than the rent, after the council deducts its "expenses".
The only circumstances in which owners can be charged is if they want to sell before the end of the management order term or if there is any outstanding service charges and there are still outstanding costs
They say: The council is not obliged to obtain a market rent, but can take any of the rent to meet its costs This is likely to leave little money left in compensation for the owner. The council is also able to deduct from the rent any expenses it has incurred.
There is and if a local authority doesn't, they have to pay the difference to the owner.