Empty Homes Policy

Appendix A – List of Legislation

The Housing Act 1985 

This Act empowers local authorities to acquire land, houses or other properties from private individuals, for the provision of housing accommodation. The acquisition must be shown to have a quantitative or qualitative housing gain. This power can be used to compulsory purchase empty homes. 

A raft of legislation supports this power including: 

• Compulsory Purchase Act 1965 – to serve a Notice to Treat to acquire the property and post confirmation procedure, 

• The Compulsory Purchase (vesting declarations) Act 1981 – to make a General Vesting Declaration under to acquire all necessary interests in the land and property included in the confirmed Compulsory Purchase order, 

• Acquisition of Land Act 1981 - compulsory purchase procedure, 

• Land Compensation Act 1961 - amount and assessment of compensation. 

The Housing Act 2004 

The Housing Act (HA) 2004 provides a number of options for a local authority to take action to bring an empty home back in to use. This includes: 

• Improvement Notice (s11) 

• Prohibition Order (s20) 

• Hazard Awareness Notice (s28) 

• Emergency Remedial Action (s40) 

• Emergency Prohibition Order (s43) 

• Demolition Order (s265 1985 Act as amended) 

• Clearance Area (s289 1985 Act as amended) 

The HA 2004 also granted local authorities a powerful tool for returning empty homes into occupation - Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMOs). EDMOs can enable local authorities to let out empty homes for up to 7 years, without the consent of the owner. The local authority will be able to carry out repair works on the property and recover their costs from the rental income. If, however, the repair works are significant, the costs may not be able to be recovered during the maximum 7 year rental period. In this case, an EDMO would not be feasible. Consequently, analysis of all costs has to be undertaken before an EDMO should be applied for. 

Building Act 1984 

Sections 77 to 79 can be used to require the owner of a dilapidated and/or dangerous building to undertake remedial work for and sites or in emergency situations the local authority can carry out the works and later recover the costs of the works from the owner. 

Town & Country Planning Act 1990 

This legislation can be used to gain entry to or dispose of a property or detrimental to the amenity of the area.

Environmental Protection Act 1990 

Section 79 to 81 applies where a premises causes a health risk or nuisance and repair work is required to make it safe. 

Prevention of Damage by Pest Act 1949 

Section 4 might be used to serve a notice on the owner or occupier requiring reasonable steps to be taken to destroy rats and mice on the land. 

Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982 

Section 29 is used where a property is not effectively secured against unauthorised entry or is likely to become a danger to public health. The local authority may undertake works to prevent unauthorised entry to the building or prevent it becoming a danger to public health. 

Local Government Miscellaneous Provisions Act 1976

This legislation may be used by the local authority to request information from the owners of properties and anyone (including companies) who have an interest in the property, in circumstances where the local authority considers that it ought to have the information with a view to performing any of its functions.

Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 

Local authorities can serve notices on owners of empty properties that are in a poor condition. 

Public Health Act 1961 

Section 34 allows local authorities to serve notice on an owner to remove accumulations of rubbish on open land,  nuisance or gives local authority power to do so in the default of the owner. 

The Local Government Act 2003 

The Local Government Act 2003 has introduced the ability for local authorities to limit the reduction of council tax on holiday / second homes to 10%, reduce other empty property discounts and vary the discount exemption classes. The Act also enables councils to share council tax data between departments to make empty homes strategies more effective. 

The Local Government Finance Act 1992

Section 11A and 12 of the LGFA 1992, inserted and substituted respectively by S75 of the Local Government Act 2003, enabled local authorities to reduce or remove discounts for second homes or vacant dwellings. This Council does not offer a second home discount.

Local Land Charges Act 1975 

Where an Owner has not complied with certain Statutory Notices, the local authority may undertake works in default of a Notice and recharge the cost of the works to the Owner. 

This debt may be registered as a Local Land Charge. 

Law of Property Act 1925 

Where there is a financial Charge registered in Part 2 of the Local Land Charges Register, a Local Authority has the power to enforce that Charge via the Enforced Sale Procedure. 

The power to carry out an enforced sale is within the Law of Property Act 1925. This is essentially a method of debt recovery and a measure of last resort; however, it can be used as a tool for regeneration in certain circumstances. Section 20 of the Limitations Act 1980 sets out that enforced sales action must be taken within 12 years of the right to receive the money arising. 

Human Rights Act 1998 

When deciding whether to go forward with an Enforced Sale Procedure or Compulsory Purchase Order, consideration must be given to the Human Rights Act 1998. In particular, selling property belonging to a third party engages Article 8 of the Act, namely ‘the right to respect for …. private and family life ..., home and … correspondence.’ Also, Article 1 of Protocol 1 is also engaged, namely ‘ ... the peaceful enjoyment of possessions ...’ Therefore, interference is only permitted if such action is considered proportionate. The individual’s property rights have to be balanced against the general benefits to the community if the property were to be brought back into use.