The Scottish Land Commission published a report in August which suggested that local authorities should be given the power to issue Compulsory Sales Orders (CSOs) to the owners of empty or dilapidated properties. These CSOs could be used to force owners to sell derelict properties at open auction.
According to the report, there are 37,000 properties in Scotland which have been empty for six months or more. This is a significant problem as empty buildings can quickly become dangerous. If owners refuse to sell vacant land, councils can struggle to access cheap land for housing. The presence of empty buildings can even deter investors from building new properties in low-income areas.
Subsequently, the report describes the proposed CSOs as an addition to “the regeneration toolbox;” one measure among several designed to empower local authorities to bring their communities out of poverty.
However, some lawyers are opposed to the proposal, on the basis that it interferes with property owners’ rights. Planning experts have also argued that the process of gaining a CSO would be a complex one, which would require a strong evidence base. It may be such a time-consuming and challenging process that local authorities would be unable or unwilling to seek out CSOs, even for dangerous properties.
It remains to be seen whether the government shall take the Land Commission’s recommendations seriously, but the issue has already generated a great deal of debate in the world of property law.
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