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					Appendix 2 Empty Dwelling Management Orders: Consultation on Secondary Legislation Background 1. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) has published a consultation document entitled Empty Dwelling Management Orders: Consultation on Secondary Legislation. The document is aimed at local authorities that enforce the main provisions contained within it. The number of empty homes in England has declined steadily since a high point of 869,000 in 1993 to 693,000 in 2004. Despite this trend, the government recognises that there remains a significant and long-standing problem of empty homes, particularly those in the private sector, which accounts for over 80% of all empty homes. Approximately half of these homes have been vacant for more than 6 months. The need to reduce the number of empty homes has been widely recognised in recent years, mainly through the campaigning of organisations such as the Empty Homes Agency. The Government is committed to finding solutions to the problems posed by empty homes. The objectives that support this commitment are:   4. To ease pressure on the housing stock in areas of high demand and reduce the necessity to develop on Greenfield land. To reduce blight and opportunities for petty crime and anti-social behaviour.

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Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMOs) are a new legal tool that will help local authorities to bring longer-term empty properties back into use. EDMOs enable local authorities to rent out properties that the owner has chosen to leave empty and use the rental income to cover repair and management charges. They were introduced by the Housing Act 2004, but require secondary legislation to bring them into force. The threat of an EDMO is intended to put pressure on the owner to enter into constructive dialogue with the local authority with the object of agreeing the best course of action to secure occupation, and thereby avoiding the need for an order to be made. EDMO’s are not intended to replace existing enforcement options such as compulsory purchase. Instead they offer an alternative course of action

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where local authorities determine that acquisition is not the most appropriate course of action to pursue. 7. The Government has invited comments on the paper. The response must be submitted by 14 October 2005.

Proposal 8. The Council’s draft response is set out in the attached annex.

Consultation 9. The appropriate Portfolio Holder has been consulted on the proposed response.

Recommendation 10. It is recommended that Cabinet endorse the draft response submitted to the ODPM.

Implications of Recommended Option 11. Financial Implications There are no financial implications at this stage. However, should the powers be implemented, funds would need to be made available. 12. Equal Opportunities Implications There are no equal opportunities implications arising out of this report. 13. Crime and Disorder Implications Continuing to tackle empty properties, which can attract petty crime, vandalism, arson and anti-social behaviour, will complement works to reduce crime and disorder in Gateshead. 14. Environmental Implications Improving the stock and the environment reduces the risk of crime and disorder and improves the perception of an area. 15. Human Rights Implications There are no human rights implications arising out of this report.

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Ward Implications This applies equally to all wards.

Background Information 17. Empty Dwelling Management Orders: Consultation on Secondary Legislation. ODPM.

CONTACT: Graeme Wilson ext. 3907

PLAN REF: 2712

Annex Response to the Consultation Document The response covers each area of the consultation and makes comment where appropriate. Setting a Time Period Question: Do you agree that all dwellings should be excepted from Empty Dwelling Management Orders for a period of six months from the time they become unoccupied, as provided for in section 134(2)(a) of the Housing Act 2004? The Council agrees that setting an overall exception in terms of the period of time a dwelling has been unoccupied is important and that 6 months is an appropriate timescale. Proposed Exception Classes Class A – Principal Homes of Absent Owners

Question: Do you agree that it is inappropriate for an EDMO to be made where a dwelling is unoccupied for more than 6 months due to the absence of the relevant proprietor –provided that dwelling is regarded as their sole or main residence for the whole duration of the absence? The proposed general exception of six months provided under section 134 of the Act should, in the majority of cases, would be sufficient to ensure an EDMO is not made where a relevant proprietor is temporarily absent from their home. However, this would not be the case if the absence extended beyond this period of time or the property was not maintained in acceptable condition. Question: Do you agree that a test of residence for the purposes of EDMOs should be based on council tax information? The Council agrees that the test of residence for the purposes of EDMOs should be largely based on council tax information. However, there may be situations where it is not appropriate i.e. when a resident chooses to pay full council tax but is not using the property as his/her main residence. In this situation Council Tax would not be able to identify the property as being empty. Question: Do you agree that Residential Property Tribunals should have discretion to consider other evidence that may have a bearing on residence in reaching a decision on whether to authorise an application for an interim EDMO?

The Council agrees that Residential Property Tribunals should have discretion to consider other evidence that may have a bearing on residence in reaching a decision on whether to authorise an application for an interim EDMO. It is, however, recognised that council tax information may not be a conclusive test of residence in all cases. A local authority, in particular the Empty Property Officer, may have additional information about the residence status of the dwelling. Were such a situation to arise, it would be prudent to allow Residential Property Tribunals to use their discretion in considering all the evidence in deciding whether to authorise the application. However, it would be important to place the onus on the local authority making the application to furnish the Tribunal with relevant information on residence from council tax records, particularly if it wished to challenge that information in order to pursue an EDMO. Class B – Second Homes and Holiday Homes Question: Do you agree that it is inappropriate for an EDMO to be made where a dwelling is unoccupied for more than 6 months but its use is as a second home or holiday home? The Council agrees that it is inappropriate for an EDMO to be made where a dwelling is unoccupied for more than 6 months but its use is as a second home or holiday home. However, this would not be the case if the absence extended beyond this period of time or the property was not maintained in acceptable condition. Question: Do you agree that in principle chargeable dwellings that receive a council tax discount on the grounds that they are no one’s sole or main residence and furnished should be excepted? The Council does not agree that chargeable dwellings that receive a council tax discount on the grounds that they are no one’s sole or main residence and furnished should be excepted. In situations where the property is not maintained in an acceptable condition and/or it gives rise to complaints an EDMO could be served. Question: Do you agree that Residential Property Tribunals should be allowed to use discretion in considering evidence regarding use that conflicts with council tax information? The Council agrees that Residential Property Tribunals should be allowed to use discretion in considering evidence regarding use that conflicts with council tax information.

Question: Do you agree that a dwelling that attracts business rates should be excepted? The Council does not agree that a dwelling that attracts business rates should be excepted. These properties may still give rise to complaints to the local authority regarding their condition. Class C – Dwellings subject to Repair or Renovation Question: Do you agree in principle that it is inappropriate for an EDMO to be made where a dwelling is unoccupied for more than 6 months and is undergoing repair or renovation? The Council agrees in principle that it is inappropriate for an EDMO to be made where a dwelling is unoccupied for more than 6 months and is undergoing repair or renovation. However, dwellings where work has been commenced should not be exempt indefinitely as work may be abandoned due to lack of finance, the owner may never have had the intention to complete works or simply because the relevant proprietor did not appreciate the size or nature of the task involved. In such cases, a local authority should be able to pursue an EDMO to enable the work to be completed and the dwelling reoccupied. Question: Do you agree that Residential Property Tribunals should have discretion to authorise or refuse to authorise applications for interim EDMOs where work has been commenced but in the opinion of the local authority is unlikely to be completed? The Council agrees that Residential Property Tribunals should have discretion to authorise or refuse to authorise applications for interim EDMOs where work has been commenced but in the opinion of the local authority is unlikely to be completed. Class D – Dwellings awaiting Planning or Building Regulations Approval Question: Do you agree in principle that it is inappropriate for an EDMO to be made where a dwelling is awaiting planning or building regulations approval? The Council agrees that in principle it is inappropriate for an EDMO to be made where a dwelling is awaiting planning or building regulations approval. When Planning or Building Regulations approval has been granted it is important to monitor the property to ensure improvement works take place within a

reasonable timescale. Where this does not occur the local authority should be able to apply to the RPT for an interim EDMO. Question: Do you agree that Residential Property Tribunals should have discretion to consider applications for interim EDMOs where in the opinion of the local authority the application for planning or building regulations approval is designed simply to prevent an EDMO from being made? The Council agrees that Residential Property Tribunals should have discretion to consider applications for interim EDMOs where in the opinion of the local authority the application for planning or building regulations approval is designed simply to prevent an EDMO from being made. Class E – Dwellings on the Market Question: Do you agree in principle that it is inappropriate for an EDMO to be made where a dwelling is on the market either for sale or letting? The Council does not agree in principle that it is inappropriate for an EDMO to be made where a dwelling is on the market either for sale or letting. It is not uncommon for empty properties to be placed on the market where owners have no intention of selling the property. Question: Do you agree that Residential Property Tribunals should have discretion to consider applications for interim EDMOs where in the opinion of the local authority the dwelling is not being actively marketed and the relevant proprietor has no intention of selling or letting it? The Council agrees that Residential Property Tribunals should have discretion to consider applications for interim EDMOs where in the opinion of the local authority the dwelling is not being actively marketed and the relevant proprietor has no intention of selling or letting it. Class F – Dwellings Where Owner Died Question: Do you agree that in the case of a dwelling where the relevant proprietor has died, the dwelling should be excepted from an EDMO for longer than 6 months? The Council agrees in principle that in the case of a dwelling where the relevant proprietor has died, the dwelling should be excepted from an EDMO for longer than 6 months.

Question: If so, what period of time would you propose for the Class F exception? The Council feels that a suitable time period would be 12 months. Other Exceptions Question: Do you consider there ought to be an additional exception class or classes? If so, please specify. The Council is of the opinion that the proposed exception classes are appropriate. Prescribed Requirements Question: Do you agree that it is not necessary to prescribe requirements for the purpose of s.134(2)(e) at this time? The Council agrees that it is not necessary to prescribe requirements for the purpose of s.134(2)(e) at this time. The provision of a secondary power to prescribe further requirements may be important in future if it becomes apparent that additional prescription of the procedure is needed. Question: If you disagree, please state what requirements you would like to have prescribed. The Council does not disagree. Secondary legislation relating to Section 145 Question: Do you agree that where a lessor of a dwelling subject to a management order seeks to exercise a right or responsibility relating to the lease of the dwelling, there should be a requirement on the lessor to serve the requisite notice or information on the LHA? The Council agrees that where a lessor of a dwelling subject to a management order seeks to exercise a right or responsibility relating to the lease of the dwelling, there should be a requirement on the lessor to serve the requisite notice or information on the LHA.

Question: Do you agree that, in determining how to respond to the actions of the lessor, the LHA should act in accordance with the wishes of the displaced lessee, unless doing so would unduly affect the operation of the management order?

The Council agrees that in determining how to respond to the actions of the lessor, the council should act in accordance with the wishes of the displaced lessee, unless doing so would unduly affect the operation of the management order. Question: Do you agree that where a displaced lessee of a dwelling subject to a management order seeks to exercise a right or responsibility relating to the lease of the dwelling, there should be provision for the LHA to grant a dispensation to allow them to act as lessee for that particular purpose The council agrees that where a displaced lessee of a dwelling subject to a management order seeks to exercise a right or responsibility relating to the lease of the dwelling, there should be provision for the council to grant a dispensation to allow them to act as lessee for that particular purpose. Question: Do you agree that a LHA should be under a duty to grant such a dispensation unless it considers doing so would unduly affect the operation of the management order? The Council agrees there should be a duty to grant such a dispensation unless it considers doing so would unduly affect the operation of the management order.


				
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