If my only information about EDMOs had come from the Daily Express I would be up in arms, aghast at the draconian new powers that had been given to local authorities. Horrified that councils could break in and steal family heirlooms and worried that my home was next.
Let me reassure you nobody is going to come and snatch your home. These powers are not there to help councils acquire property; they are there to help alleviate the problems of abandoned homes owned by people who don’t care. Not people who find them selves in the unfortunate position of having a temporarily vacant home. They are there to help deal with the problems of run down property, eyesores that attract petty crime, vandalism, graffiti, and arson. They are there to help the people who live next to these abandoned houses and are currently powerless to act.
The exemptions cover every other eventuality. If the owner is away for work or travelling however long that might be EDMOs do not apply, if the property is empty because the owner is away in hospital or caring for somebody else, if the property is a second home, a holiday home, EDMOs do not apply. If the home for sale or to let EDMOs do not apply. If the owner has plans for bringing the property back into use an EDMO won’t be made. If the property is in probate following the death of the owner EDMOs do not apply. What other reasons are there for a property being empty?
There are 300,000 long-term empty homes in England, 85% of them are privately owned. Yes publicly owned empty homes are a scandal too but there are already powers to deal with them (PRODS) and their numbers have come down dramatically. Every empty home means another new house has to be built often on greenfield land to house our growing population. Reduce the numbers of empty homes and we reduce the need to build so many new homes.
Let’s also look at some of the other myth that have been peddled by the Express:
Family heirlooms cannot be snatched. This is a misreading of a clause that actually requires local authorities to look after any contents in a house to which an EMO applies. If the owner doesn’t want the contents the local authority can’t just throw them away they have to store them safely until the owner says they want them back.
There are several; rights of appeal. In fact it’s hard to find a piece of legislation with more appeal opportunities for the property owner. The owner can appeal against the decision to make an EDMO, they can also appeal at any time during an EDMOs duration if the think the local authority is not managing the property efficiently. They can also appeal to have the order revoked if they have new plans to manage the property themselves.
Owners are not locked into an EDMO. Once it is made the owner can still sell the property at any time, and indeed if they want to manage it themselves they can apply to have the order revoked.
Council’s do have to obtain a market rent for the property. If they let it at below market rent they have to compensate the owner with the difference.
Lastly there is no programme to seize thousands of empty homes. The power is a discretionary one, local authorities make their own decision of whether to use it. I can’t guarantee that all of them will use it sensibly, but I believe the vast majority will. It is one of many different approaches that local authorities can take. Many already give grants and loans to help empty home owners with repairs, some offer tenant finding schemes, some help owners sell and market their homes. Only when these sorts of services have been offered and have failed should EDMOs even enter local authorities minds. I predict a small number of EDMOs actually being used but if it helps turn abandoned homes back into places that people want to live in and live next door to it will have been a success