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8 January 2011

New rules for councils seizing empty homes

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by Gill Montia

New rules for councils seizing empty homes

Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, has announced changes to rules that have allowed local authorities to seize homes that are left empty for six months and more.

In 2006, the previous Government introduced Empty Dwelling Management Orders, which according to Mr Pickles give councils the right to seize empty property after too short a period, and even when a house it is up for sale.

Under the new rules, a property will have to stand empty for at least two years before an Empty Dwelling Management Order can be obtained, and property owners will have to be given at least three months’ notice before the order can be issued.

Mr Pickles comments: “There is a case for action to put boarded-up and blighted properties back into use.”

He adds: “But these draconian and heavy-handed state powers have allowed councils to seize private homes in perfect condition, including their fixtures and fittings, just because the homes have been empty for a short while.”

The move comes as the Government prepares to introduce wider plans to bring back into use some of the 300,000 properties in England that have been empty for long periods.

From next year, councils will have a new incentive to bring empty properties back into use through a New Homes Bonus, under which the Government will match the council tax raised from any council tax collected from a property that previously stood empty.

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