Homes that are left empty for more than six months can be seized by councils and converted into social housing under new legislation due to come into force next month.
The Empty Dwelling Management Order allows local housing authorities to effectively step into the shoes of the owner of an unoccupied property if it is unlikely to be occupied in the near future.
Owners will be paid any surplus revenue left after the LA has accounted for conversion and running costs.
The Department of Communities and Local Government says the legislation is in response to the shortage of housing stock and adds it is difficult to justify building more new homes when 250,000 stand empty.
Empty homes are often a bone of contention in communities as they are seen to encourage swatters and drug users, lower the tone and therefore value of a neighbourhood and contribute nothing towards the shortage of housing stock.
There is also a long list of individuals and families in a queue for social housing that could benefit from the scheme,
However, it has already attracted some media criticism as bereaved families could see the homes of their dead relatives commandeered if they do not sell or rent them out six months after a death.
A spokesman for the DCLG says: The owner retains the ownership right and can dispose of their dwelling rights at any time or seek revocation of an order to enable sale or to otherwise secure occupation.