Last edited 06 Jun 2018

Empty dwelling management orders

Empty dwelling management orders (EDMOs) are legal instruments available for local authorities in England and Wales to take over the management of unoccupied properties and use them as housing.

They were introduced by the Housing Act 2004 which specified that if residential premises had been left empty for at least six months and were not likely to be occupied in the near future, then an EDMO could be sought by the local authority.

The intention of the Act was to bring private sector property back into use by persuading owners and using EDMOs as a last resort, as opposed to forcing empty buildings back into use either by compulsory purchase orders or an enforced sales.

The first stage in the process is for a local authority to apply for an interim order from a Residential Property Tribunal. If the tribunal is satisfied that the necessary conditions have been met then the interim EDMO lasts for up to 12 months, during which time the local authority is considered the legal possessor but not the owner, and they must communicate with the actual owner to try and work towards getting the property back into use.

A final EDMO is issued if the building remains unoccupied after 12 months. At this stage, the local authority has the power to find an alternative occupier for the property. If after seven years however, it is still unoccupied, possession must be returned to the owner.

If the local authority manages to find an alternative occupier, the rent is paid to them, enabling them to recover any costs incurred through taking possession, maintenance, and so on. Any revenue generated above these costs must be paid to the owner.

In 2010, the Coalition government extended the period during which a property has to have been empty before an interim EDMO can be applied for, from six months to two years. In addition, the tribunal must be satisfied that the property has been vandalised or actively used for anti-social purposes, and that there is local support for the EDMO. The changed regulations also require the local authority to give the owner at least three months’ notice of their intention to apply for the EDMO.

Certain property classes are exempt from EDMOs. These include:

  • Those in the process of being sold or let.
  • Those unoccupied because the resident is in care or on holiday.
  • Those that are partly-occupied (e.g. an apartment building which is partly empty).
  • Non-residential properties.

At the time of the Housing Act, the government estimated that EDMOs could bring around 1,000 properties a year back into use. However, in 2017, it was found that only 208 applications had been across the UK, of which 137 had been granted.

Lucy Pendleton, director of the estate agent James Pendleton, which analysed the figures, said; “This is a disgraceful waste of powers given to councils to help solve the housing crisis. It’s even more disturbing to find that applications have dropped to zero in London, where the high cost of living and severe, long-standing imbalance between supply and demand makes these powers even more urgent.”

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