Q. A house in our road is practically falling down. It’s in a terrible state. Can anything be done?

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A. That rather depends on whether there’s anyone still living there or not.

If the property is empty, and has been for more than 6 months, then your local authority may decide to make something called an Empty Dwelling Management Order.

Brought into being by the 2004 Housing Act, EDMOs basically entitle local authorities under certain circumstances to take possession of empty residential properties, do them up, and then rent them out.

An interim EDMO lasts for up to a year, during which time the council will make every effort to agree a plan with the owner to bring the property back into use. If no agreement is forthcoming, or if the owner simply cannot be traced, then a final EDMO can be made, effectively turning the property into local authority housing for up to 7 years.

In case anyone reading this is scared that they could suddenly find council tenants ensconced in their precious holiday home, I should emphasise that a EDMO can only be made with the approval of an independent property tribunal, which must first be satisfied that the property concerned has been unoccupied for at least 6 months, and that none of the various exceptions apply. Holiday homes, for example, are exempt. So too are properties that are subject to probate as a result of bereavement, and those that are genuinely on the market for sale or to let. In any case, EDMOs can always be terminated early if the owners decide they want to sell, or live there themselves.

If, on the other hand, the property you are concerned about is still occupied, then I’m afraid your only real option is to try and persuade the people living there to get things sorted. If he/she/they won’t co-operate, then there’s not really very much else you can do, unless the state of the property is so bad that it is actually dangerous to passers-by and neighbours, or if it is creating a serious nuisance or health hazard – for example, if it is infested with rats. Then, the local authority may be able to step in.