Fact often follows fiction, and so it is this week with MPs Mr and Mrs Keen and their empty house.
Back in 2005 soon after Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMO) had been introduced Armando Iannucci thought it would make an entertaining topic for the comedy “The Thick of It”. Hapless minister Hugh Abbot digs himself into a hole over his empty flat and just about survives the onslaught of Alistair Campbell clone Malcolm Tucker. This week husband and wife MPs Ann and Alan Keen find themselves in similar difficulty.
It appears the Keens moved to their central London second home in order to renovate their Brentford constituency home. Something clearly went wrong because these photos from the Evening Standard would seem to suggest building works are to put it mildly - stalled.
Hounslow council quite rightly contacted them and asked what they are going to do about their now overgrown and distinctly empty house. They set out the possible consequences of doing nothing including, you’ve guessed it, an EDMO. It’s all over the papers today and having just done two TV interviews, it doesn’t look like the story is going away. I’m sure what Hounslow sent is an early warning letter to the Keens, and I very much doubt the council is on the brink of sending their papers off to the Residential Property Tribunal. But on the facts I have seen there’s nothing to stop them doing so. Mrs Keen says that they are exempt because "owners undertaking renovation work on their homes are not under threat of repossession". Sorry Mrs K but no such exemption exists, but if they get on and get the property reoccupied I’m sure they will have nothing to worry about – well from the council anyway. But in these less than forgiving times for MPs, that, it appears is only the beginning of their worries now.