This week sees the confirmation of the first ever Empty Dwelling Management Order The order confirmed by the Residential Property Tribunal will allow South Oxfordshire District Council to take over management control of a two-bedroom house in the village of Berinsfield that has been empty for more than 10 years. Coming more than 6 months since the introduction of the legislation the scenario of a “mass house grab” by local authorities predicated by the Daily Express amongst others has, it appears, not materialised. If anything this case seems to be evidence that local authorities are taking quite a sensible approach to this legislation. This appears to be a pretty clear-cut case of abandonment by the owner and the council concluded that after months of trying to engage the owner in a discussion about the property that an EDMO was the best approach to getting this home back into use.
Although this is the first, there are other EDMOs in the pipeline Norwich City Council announced last week that they were on the verge of applying for one, and half a dozen or so other councils across the country are in a similar position.
This is welcome news, but of course the real indicator of success is not how many EDMO s are made but how many empty homes come into use as a result. The impact of legislation can and should be much wider than the amount of enforcement activity. How many empty home owners decide to bring their property back into use to avoid being caught. We may never know the whole answer. But one intriguing piece of information came out of a trip I made to Manchester late last year. Manchester City Council has started using the new legislation on fifteen occasions since last July. But each time the owner has either sold or let the property.