Q. How many empty homes are there in
A. There are 742 long term
empty homes in Bedford, (December 2015). These are properties which
are recorded as being unoccupied for greater than 6 months.
Q. Why are homes left unoccupied for
A. Homes can be unoccupied
for a number of reasons. In the vast majority of cases they are
unoccupied for legitimate reasons or will be brought back in to use
by their owners without any intervention by the Council.
Examples include: -
- Properties where their owners
are actively undertaking renovation works
- Properties which are being
marketed actively and at a realistic price
- The owner is in a care home
or providing care
- Probate issues are being
resolved without undue delay
Q.What actions are the Council taking
to bring empty properties back in to use?
A. The Council’s records show
that over 80% of people who own an empty home in the Borough live
in the Borough. To raise awareness of empty homes being a wasted
resource, the Council operates an active publicity campaign to make
liable persons aware of the options that are available to bring
empty properties back in to use.
In addition to the publicity campaign, the
Housing Strategy and Development Team contacts persons recorded as
liable for an empty home once Council Tax records show it has been
unoccupied for over 12 months.
Initial contacts are usually made by letter
with the aim of encouraging the owner to get in touch to inform us
what the situation is and their plans for bringing the property
back in to use.
Where a person is unsure what to do with an
empty property, advice and guidance is provided as to the options
available to them.
Where owners do not make contact, a visit is
undertaken. Where there is no evidence that the property is being
brought back in to use, additional contacts are attempted to try
and encourage the owner to discuss the situation and take up the
most appropriate option for them to bring the property back in to
use. Visits are also undertaken to confirm the situation with an
empty property is the same as what the Council has been told.
Where a liable person is ultimately not
willing to take any action to bring an empty property back in to
use and there is no legitimate reason for it being unoccupied, the
Council is able to take enforcement action.
Q. What powers does the Council use to
bring empty properties back in to use?
A. Where it proves not to be
possible to contact an owner or to persuade an owner to bring their
property back in to use, the Council has a range of enforcement
powers at its disposal which are granted through government
legislation. These include: -
- Compulsory Purchase
Orders (CPO) – The power to compulsory purchase a property
is granted under Section 17 of the Housing Act 1985. This allows
local authorities to acquire under-used or ineffectively used
property for residential purposes if there is a general housing
need in the area. There is a legal process which must be completed
before the transfer of the property to the Council can take place.
Properties acquired through compulsory purchase are sold on buy the
Council with a clause which means the new owner has to bring them
back in to use, usually within 12 months.
- Enforced sale
– Where we are owed money for works carried out in default or for
other debts such as Council Tax, the Council can force the sale of
the property to recover the debt(s). The enforced sale of a
property will allow a new owner the opportunity to bring it back in
- Enforcement action –
In certain circumstances the Council can take legal action where
owners fail to improve the condition of the property themselves and
this can include the Council undertaking the work and
recharging the owner for any costs plus additional expenses.
Q Does the Council use Empty Dwelling
Management Orders (EDMO) to bring properties back in to
A. The Council has the right
to use Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMO) to bring properties
back in to occupation where the statutory requirements are met.
However, the Council does not generally favour this approach.
If an EDMO is awarded by a Residential
Property Tribunal the management of the property only passes to the
Council for a limited period (up to seven years) which means
it could return to being unoccupied at the end of this period. The
use of compulsory purchase orders enable the Council to find a
permanent solution to bringing empty homes back in to
Q. Why does the Council work on long
term empty homes?
A. Bringing empty homes back
in to use forms part of the national priority to make better use of
the existing housing stock.
On a local level, housing within the Borough
is in short supply. At 1st September 2015 there were
1,103 people with a housing need on the Housing Register. The 742
homes which are recorded as empty could be used to help house
people who need accommodation.
Empty homes which are not being brought back
in to use can constitute a waste of land, cause problems for other
local people and represent a wasted resource for the owners who
could either receive an income if rented, or a cash lump sum if it
was sold thereby enabling someone else to bring it back in to
Q. Which unoccupied homes does the
Council target to bring back in to use?
A. The Council usually only
intervenes where homes have been registered as empty with Council
Tax for over 12 months, there is no legitimate reason for the
property being unoccupied and the owner is not interested in taking
the actions necessary to bring it back in to use .
The highest priority empty homes that the
Council targets to bring back in to occupation are those that have
either been empty the longest or those that are causing local
problems because of crime, anti-social behaviour or whose condition
is detrimental to the local environment.
Q. Does the Council offer help to
owners of long term empty properties?
A. The Council can assist
owners to identify the options available which would bring their
empty homes back in to use.
Owners can also be put in touch with the
Council’s Rent Deposit and Private Sector Leasing schemes which
provide accommodation for families with a housing need.
Additional information on how these schemes operate can be
obtained from the Re-housing Team by calling (01234) 718683.
At the current time the Council is not able to
offer empty home owner’s assistance by way of grants to bring their
properties back in to use.
Although the Council is not generally able to
offer loans, these can be considered in exceptional circumstances
where it would prove cost effective to bring an empty property back
in to use.
Q. Can I buy an empty home from the
A. Historically once the
Council has compulsory purchased a long term empty property, it has
sold it on by way of informal tender through a local estate agent.
A clause in the purchase agreement ties the owner to bringing the
property back in to use (usually within 12 months of purchase), or
the Council will be able to re-purchase the property at the price
Q. Can I have a list of all long term
A. The Data Protection Act
1998 means that the Council can only disclose details of empty
homes owned by ‘non-individuals’.
Q. Is the Council interested in empty
offices, shops and other premises which are not owned by
A. The Council will look at
such premises where there is the possibility that our intervention
can bring them back in to use.
Q. Does the Council evict squatters
from privately owned empty properties?
A. No. It is the owner’s
responsibility to remove squatters.
Q. I am paying 150% Council Tax on my
empty property, why?
A. The introduction of the
Localism Act 2011 enabled local authorities to charge owners of
long term empty properties a Premium Rate which is higher than the
standard rate of Council Tax. In Bedford Borough properties which
are unfurnished and have been empty for over 2 years are charged at
150% of the standard Council Tax rate.
Q. My property is in need of
structural repairs and is uninhabitable; will I be entitled to a
Council Tax reduction?
A. To establish whether you
may be eligible for any reductions to your Council Tax bill you can
contact the Council Tax department at Bedford Borough Council
(01234) 267422, or the local Valuation Office Agency for Bedford at
St Peters House, 45 Victoria Street, St Albans, Herts, AL1 3WZ, Tel
Q. How do I report an empty
A. Please contact the Housing Strategy and
Development Team on (01234) 718581 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org