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New East Suffolk Council Misses Chance to Bring Empty Homes Into Use Through New Council Tax Powers

December 12, 2018 12:00 PM

NEW COUNCIL TAX MUST BE USED TO BRING EMPTY HOMES BACK INTO USE
New rules brought in by the Government last month have given councils the powers to ramp up the Council Tax on homes which have been empty for more than two years. It is increasingly felt that substantially increasing Council Tax will hopefully encourage owners to either bring the properties up to date and into use, or sell them if they cannot afford any necessary repairs and renovations.

Under the change in the law which came into force on 1st November, councils will be able to charge more council tax for long term empty properties. Currently, it is believed there are 200,000 properties standing empty in England.

There is a national housing crisis with 1.6 million families on waiting lists for what was used to call council housing however the future East Suffolk District Council is proposing to add just 50% to the full charge for properties empty for 2 years or more but only after 2 years.

Compare this with Teignbridge in Devon where there is a proposal for a Quadruple Council Tax levied on long-term empty homes. Teignbridge proposals include doubling Council Tax from next April for homes empty for more than two years. In 2020, that would rise to triple council tax for homes empty more than five years and from 2021, homes left vacant for more than 10 years would pay four times the standard Council Tax rate for the property. Some exemptions from the new rules would apply. In cases where the person is the sole or main resident in armed forces accommodation they would not be charged extra.

"Under schemes run by councils like Teignbridge, help and support can be provided to bring houses back into use and lift the burden the owners' shoulders. 'Sometimes people inherit a property and may not be in a position to manage it. said Lib Dem Councillor Connett. An extra £68,500 next year, rising to £153,600 in three years time could be raised in Teignbridge who would in turn would keep around 10 per cent of the extra money it collected. "Personally, I would like to see any extra money from the empty homes Council Tax put into local housing support services such as tackling homelessness and bringing empty homes back into use" said Cllr Connett.

Against this background apparently the joint authority meeting of East Suffolk DC recently passed the following policy regarding Council Tax as follows

Empty and unfurnished properties 100% discount for two weeks then full payment

Empty and uninhabitable properties 25% discount for 12 months then full payment

Long term empty more than 6 months and less than 2 years 100% charge no discount

Long term empty 2 years or more additional 50% added after 2 years

Second homes no discount 100% charge

EMPTY PROPERTIES NOTES

  1. Since 1 April 2013, local authorities in England have been able to charge a premium of 50% on the full council tax charge, and that a further change to the law has now been made to allow councils to raise this premium.
  2. The legislation allowing this to happen became law on 1 November 2018 and is contained in the Rating (Property in Common Occupation) and Council Tax (Empty Dwellings) Act 2018. A key intention of this is to encourage owners of empty properties to bring their properties back into use.
  3. Empty properties attract squatters, vandalism and anti-social behaviour; can be a blight on the local community; and can affect the value of the properties around them.
  4. 1.6 million households are on social housing waiting lists, long-term empty properties are a wasted resource.
  5. An empty property for council tax purpose is defined as a property that is 'unoccupied and substantially unfurnished'.
  6. Currently there are just over 200,000 long-term empty dwellings in England compared to 300,000 in 2010. The number has reduced since 2013, when councils were given powers to charge a 50% premium under the Coalition Government - so applying a premium has been a successful incentive in tackling empty homes.
  7. The law introduced incremental increases that can be applied to reflect the length of time that properties have been empty. From April 2019 properties that have been empty for more than 2 years can be charged a 100% council tax premium. By April 2021, properties empty for more than 10 years will be liable for a 300% council tax premium.

END

Lib dems Demand Better (Lib Dems)