New Government restrictions on the use EDMO's will achieve little.
It is a policy that appears to be heading in the wrong direction given the limited times that this legislation has been used and the demand for a solution to blighted and empty property.
On 7 January 2011 the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, announced an intention to restrict the use of EDMOs in a CLG press notice:
• they will be limited to empty properties that have become magnets for vandalism, squatters and other forms of anti-social behaviour - blighting the local neighbourhood
• 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.
The rationale for the restrictions is to “protect civil liberties”:
The coalitions argument does not sit with the facts. The government admit that 'There is a case for action to put boarded-up and blighted properties back into use. 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'.
Since the 2004 Act there have been just 40 Empty Management Dwelling Orders secured against blighted properties.
Under the old systemt EDMOs were available to teh Local Authority where a residential property has been vacant for a minimum of six months.
Local Authorities were obliged to always attempt to secure the occupation of empty dwellings with the consent and co-operation of the owner and only resort to the exercise of their formal enforcement powers, including the use of EDMOs where occupation cannot be achieved through voluntary means
The Coalition Government claims it is standing up for in this case, spurious civil liberties of law-abiding citizens. Fundamental human rights include the right to property.
Hard cases make bad law but the Secreatary of State's justification is that 'People suffering the loss of a loved one should not have to endure the added indignity of having their home seized because of a delay in them deciding what to do with it.' I am not sure of the 40 that there has been one instance of this.
Target properties tend to be boarded up or empty properties, or ones with a trancisent population.
In terms of responses, the Empty Homes Agency (of which I am to become a board member) welcomed the decision to retain EDMOs but questioned whether there is a need for the changes proposed:
We are pleased that the power has been retained. It has proved useful as a tool of last resort for councils. The amended regulations will not affect many cases as the power is generally only used in extreme cases which already meet the new amendments.
He [David Ireland] expressed concern that ‘an effect of the changes would be to limit council’s ability to deal with certain cases such as new blocks of empty speculatively built flats’, but added that ‘the main purpose of the legislation has been retained and we welcome that’.
The substantive issue seems to have missed in the original legilsation and it is with regret that we see an erosion of what limted pwers did exist. The problem with EDMO's is the cost after acquiring a Management Order of bringing a poor property, probably in a poor area, upt to the decent homes standard and recover that amount, often running to tens of £thousands of pounds from subsequent rents.
The government has failed to tackle the primary weakness in the legisaltion and in the meantime, pandered to rights rather than enforce responsibilities. Blighted areas need help. This makes regeneration more difficult and gives a green a light to irresponsible landlords.