The Empty Dwelling Management Orders, introduced in 2006, allow authorities to take over the management, but not the ownership, of a property. That means that councils can seize, renovate and lease a property for up to seven years before returning it to its owner.
A home has to be left unoccupied for 6 months before this process can start. According to Government statistics, there are currently 697,055 ‘vacant dwellings’ in England, of which 293,728 have been empty for more than six months.
Housing Minister Margaret Beckett is asking councils to seek out these properties. In the light of the economy and the inevitable slow down in house building over the next few years, it is though this is one way to bring more housing into use.
According to the the Telegraph, Mrs Beckett is also urging councils to use private investigators to track down property owners.
Mrs Beckett said: ‘Empty homes blight local neighbourhoods and can potentially attract anti-social behaviour. That is why councils must do all they can to bring empty homes in their area back into use.’