What powers do local authorities have?
Whenever possible we will try to improve housing standards by providing information, guidance and general support to landlords, leaseholders and owner-occupiers. To support this we have developed a range of financial products available to owners and developers who want to bring an empty property back into use. However, when negotiations with you about your empty property do not succeed, we have a range of powers available to make sure the property is reused.
What powers do we have?
Compulsory purchase orders (CPOs)
Serving compulsory purchase orders (CPOs) on empty properties may be justified where there appears to be no other chance of a suitable property being used as a home. Before a CPO is confirmed,we will have to show that we have taken steps to encourage you to bring the property into acceptable use. We will also need to show that our reasons for making a CPO justify interfering with your human rights or those of anyone else with an interest in the property.
The Housing Act 2004 allows us to take out an empty dwelling management order (EDMO) to make sure that your empty property is used for housing.
We can make EDMOs on properties that have been empty for at least six months. There are two types of EDMO – interim and final. An interim EDMO lasts 12 months but a final EDMO can last up to seven, 14 or 21 years.
An EDMO allows us to:
- ‘step into your shoes’ if you own an unoccupied building and
- make sure that empty properties are occupied and managed properly.
We will bring the property back into use but you will still own it. We can take any costs to improve the property from the rents we receive when we let the property.
The Housing Act 2004 gives us new powers to make sure that properties are safe and suitable to live in. The powers may also apply to empty properties. These changes came into force in April 2006.
- Powers of entry – these allow us to enter a property to inspect it if you refuse to let us in (we have to give you at least 24 hours’ notice). If you stop our officer from getting in, we may get a warrant to enter from the courts. This allows us to force our way in if we have to.
- Power to require information – we can serve notices asking for certain information, for example, about who owns a property. This allows us to act to improve the property using the other powers described.
- Hazard-awareness notices – these will make sure that you or the person responsible is aware of a danger and the need to carry out repairs or alterations.
- Power to serve notices – we can serve improvement notices when work needs to be done to improve living conditions for occupiers or neighbours. The work we specify depends on the conditions we find and what the law allows us to do.
- Powers to enter a property and carry out work (emergency remedial action) – if you do not carry out work to the standard specified by a notice, we have the option of doing the work and charging you for it.
- Power to take over managing properties – there are a number of reasons why we may do this, including not being able to issue a licence or if a property has been empty for a long time.
- Power to close a property (prohibition order) – we would issue this notice only after we had carried out a detailed assessment to decide the best course of action to deal with a seriously substandard property. We might close a property where improvements are too expensive or the condition of the property is too bad to repair. The notice would mean that nobody could live in the property.
- Power to order a property to be domolished or an area is cleared – this is done in similar circumstances to closing a property.
Housing Act 1985, section 17
This Act gives us the power to take over land, houses or other properties to increase the number of houses available or improve the quality of the housing stock. The main uses of this power are to get land for housing. This includes bringing empty properties back into use as homes, and improving substandard ones. Where we get control of a property through this power, we will usually sell it to:
- a private-sector developer
- an owner-occupier or
- a registered social landlord
Town and Country Planning Act 1990, section 226
The powers in section 226 are intended to help local authorities which have planning powers to take control of the land they need to put in place their community strategies and local development documents. These planning powers are wide enough to allow us to take over land for redevelopment.
Enforced sales procedures
Law of Property Act 1925 (link) Where we have issued and enforced a charge against a property you own, we have all the legal rights of a mortgage lender under the Law&Property Act 1925. We may have issued the charge against the property because you did not:
- obey the terms of a statutory notice we issued or
- pay Council Tax or other debts you owed to the local authority.
Dangerous or dilapidated Buildings or structures
Building Act 1984, sections 77&78 We can order you to make property safe or allow us to take emergency action to make it safe.
Statutory nuisance (statutory nuisance or premises which can affect health)
Environmental Protection Act, 1990, Section 80 (link) Building Act 1984, Section 76 (link) We can order you to make your property safe or allow us to take emergency action to make the building safe.
These are empty properties that are not secure so they can be broken into, vandalised, set on fire and so on. Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982, Section 29
We can order you to
- make your property secure or allow us to board it up in an emergency or
- allow us to fence off the property.