Empty Homes Policy
Meeting: 09/09/2008 - Cabinet (Item 120)
Report of the Executive Member for Economic and Housing (Paul Claussen).
The report concerned a replacement policy for the existing Empty Dwellings Policy reflecting changes in legislation.
The legislation surrounding the powers available to a Local Authority had changed with the enactment of the provisions in the Housing Act 2004.
Members were informed that in reality this policy would be rarely used as all avenues had to be exhausted before Empty Management Orders (EMO) could be applied.
The Assistant Director for Prosperous Communities drew Members’ attention to page 127 of the report which stated that, where a dwelling had been unoccupied for at least two years immediately prior to being refurbished and improved for occupation, the works could be rated at 5% VAT, and in certain cases, the sale of renovated dwellings could be zero rated for VAT if the dwellings were being sold after being empty for ten years or more since the completion date of the renovation.
A Member wished to know what the timetable was for restoring these empty dwellings for human habitation as he knew full well that in the area of Breckland there were more than 1000 empty properties. In response, the Principal Environmental Health Officer explained that bringing an empty dwelling back into use was actually cheaper than a new build. He then explained how long it took to get to the EMO stage.
The concerns expressed by the Overview and Scrutiny Chairman regarding extreme cases where property owners could not be found was noted.
The options available were:
1) To adopt the new policy that reflected current legislative provision and the powers already adopted by Cabinet.
2) Not to adopt the new policy and to continue with the old policy that did not reflect the new powers already adopted by Cabinet. Such a conflict could result in the Council being unable to justify its actions to a Residential Property Tribunal.
The reasons for the recommendation were to enable the Council to exercise the powers already adopted by Cabinet and to be able to justify its actions to a Residential Property Tribunal.
RESOLVED that the replacement Private Empty Dwellings Policy be adopted subject to the following amendments:
1) to require that the Ward Member be informed of any instances where an Empty Dwellings Management Order was to be pursued in their Ward; and
2) to require that in extreme cases, where the owner cannot be traced, and it was proposed that a property was required to be demolished and/or redeveloped, such action to be subject to the approval of full Council.