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Empty homes

Like most parts of the UK, Bedford has a shortage of affordable homes.  That's why it is a great waste to have nearly 800 privately owned homes standing empty for long periods of time.

Between 1 April 2008 and 31 March 2015, 871 empty homes were brought back into use through Council intervention.

  • Did you know that a property left empty is now subject to a full Council Tax bill?
  • A property left empty for more than two years is subject to a 50% Council Tax premium.
  • If you are interested in letting an empty property we may be able to help you find suitable tenants. 
  • We have enforcement powers available to bring properties back into use.

Report an empty property

Report an empty property  

or contact the Housing Strategy and Development Team on (01234) 718581 or email

Empty property to let

If you have an empty property to let, we can offer a range of incentives, free advice, support and practical help (PDF) to landlords looking to let a property.

Empty homes strategy 2019-2024

The overall aim of Bedford Borough Council’s Empty Homes Strategy 2019-2024 is to bring long-term empty properties back into use.

Together with our partners we will seek innovative solutions to the problem and hence contribute towards increasing housing supply and improving local environments.

The Strategy is focused on residential properties in the local authority area that have been unoccupied for 12 months and more especially (although not exclusively), where they are causing significant problems to the local community.

Compulsory Purchase Orders

Unfortunately, many properties stand empty for a number of years with no prospects of being occupied. The Council is actively trying to encourage owners of empty properties to bring them back into occupation. Where this fails the Council has developed a Compulsory Purchase Procedure (PDF) programme. There are currently 29 long term empty properties on the Council's CPO Programme. 

In October 2014 local news covered the Compulsory Purchase of a long term empty property on Edward Road Bedford. View the Anglian News report on the ITV website. 

Additional information

Frequently asked questions

How many empty homes are there in Bedford?

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.

Why are homes left unoccupied for long periods?

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.


  • 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

What actions are the Council taking to bring empty properties back in to use?

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.      

What powers does the Council use to bring empty properties back in to use?

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 by 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 to use.
  • 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.

Does the Council use Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMO) to bring properties back in to occupation?

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 use.

Why does the Council work on long term empty homes?

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 use.

Which unoccupied homes does the Council target to bring back in to use?

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.

Does the Council offer help to owners of long term empty properties?

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.  

Can I buy an empty home from the Council?

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 paid. 

Can I have a list of all long term empty homes?

The Data Protection Act 1998 means that the Council can only disclose details of empty homes owned by ‘non-individuals’.  

Is the Council interested in empty offices, shops and other premises which are not owned by individuals?

The Council will look at such premises where there is the possibility that our intervention can bring them back in to use.

Does the Council evict squatters from privately owned empty properties?

No. It is the owner’s responsibility to remove squatters.

I am paying 150% Council Tax on my empty property, why?

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.

My property is in need of structural repairs and is uninhabitable; will I be entitled to a Council Tax reduction?

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 03000 501501.

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