Landlords are being asked for their views on plans to forcibly rent out persistently vacant commercial properties to new tenants in a bid to rejuvenate high streets.
High Street Rental Auctions - a new power for local authorities in England - is part of the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill and the government consultation is looking for ideas on what lease arrangements should look like, possible costs, and the application of Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard requirements.
It says prolonged vacancy of shops and buildings is a blight on high streets which significantly impacts economic performance, negatively affects footfall, risks closing businesses and losing jobs, and forces people to move away.
Some of the worst affected areas include Manchester, North-East Lincolnshire, Luton, and East Staffordshire where vacancy rates range from 20% to as high as 28%.
The government also hopes to increase cooperation between landlords and local authorities, and to make town centre tenancies more accessible and affordable for tenants, including local businesses and community groups.
Auctions would allow councils to auction the rental rights of a commercial high street property that has been vacant for longer than 12 months in a 24-month period.
Read more about empty retail units.
Successful bidders would enter into an agreement for lease with the landlord, and then a lease of between one to five years following completion of any pre-tenancy works. The process would not apply in the case of properties whose landlords are actively seeking to fill their premises or where it is going to be redeveloped.
When a landlord doesn't cooperate, they would get an eight-week grace period to find a tenant, after which time the local authority could arrange an auction and then enter into a lease agreement with the successful bidder.
The consultation ends on 23rd June.