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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 May, 2004, 12:17 GMT 13:17 UK
New powers to seize empty homes
Derelict house
Empty homes can prove a magnet for anti-social behaviour
The government is to legislate to allow local authorities to seize and rent out property left empty.

Councils will be given powers to use up to 300,000 properties left empty for a long time in a bid to ease the UK housing shortage.

The owners of the property will be paid a rental income minus any renovation expenses incurred by the council.

The move followed intense lobbying from MPs and charities to make use of empty properties to ease homelessness.

"We will not tolerate houses sitting empty, becoming magnets for vandals and anti-social behaviour, at a time when there is a shortage of homes in some parts of this country," said housing minister Keith Hill.

Still on the drawing board

Objectors to the plan have argued that hasty action by councils could cause distress where there is good reason for a property to remain empty temporarily, such as after a family bereavement.

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) said it was giving careful consideration to the circumstances in which councils would be allowed to use the new powers, including the length of time a property has to have remained empty.

The amended Housing Bill is due for its second reading in the House of Commons on 7 June.

Controls on landlords

In addition, the government said it intends to introduce a scheme aimed at safeguarding the deposits of people renting privately.

Details of how the scheme will operate have yet to emerge but housing charities have already welcomed the step.

Adam Sampson, director of Shelter, said the scheme would help "put a stop to cowboy landlords ripping off millions of pounds of tenants' money."

An estimated 127,000 private tenants have their deposits held unfairly each year, Mr Sampson added.

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