Empty homes to be hit with double council tax

If thousands of empty properties aren't brought back into use across England, their owners will be hit with double council tax, under new rules.

What’s the latest?

Homes that are empty for more than two years will be hit with double council tax in a bid to crack down on unused properties.

The Government is introducing legislation to enable local authorities in England to charge the premium as part of a package of measures aimed at tackling the UK’s housing shortage.

It is hoped the move will lead to thousands of extra homes being made available.

Local Government Minister Rishi Sunak said: “It is simply wrong that, while there are 200,000 long-term empty properties across the country, thousands of families are desperate for a secure place to call home.

“This new power will equip councils with the tools they need to encourage owners of long-term empty properties to bring them back into use – and at the same time tackle the harmful effect they have on communities through squatting, vandalism and anti-social behaviour.

Why is this happening?

The move is the latest part of a raft of government measures aimed at making homeownership more accessible for people.

With the UK facing a property shortage, it makes sense to bring back into use homes that currently stand empty, while increasing the supply should help to relieve some of the upward pressure on prices.

Local authorities in Scotland and Wales have been able to charge council tax of 200% of the standard rate on empty properties since 2013 and 2017 respectively.

Although properties in these regions only need to be left empty for one year before the charge is levied.

Who does it affect?

The new rules will not affect all empty homes as there are a number of exemptions.

Owners will not be charged double council tax if their properties are on the market for sale or rent.

It will also not apply to the homes of people who are living in armed forces accommodation for job-related purposes.

There is also an exemption for annexes that are being used as part of a main property, and the homes of people who go into care.

But the new law will affect people who purchase a home that is already empty, as the two-year period is timed from when a property first becomes vacant, regardless of whether there is a change in ownership.

Sounds interesting. What’s the background?

The Government estimates there are currently 200,000 long-term empty properties in England.

The number has fallen significantly since 2013, when local authorities were first given the power to impose a 50% council tax premium on unused homes.

Between 2007 and 2018, 291 out of 326 councils applied the 50% empty home premium on properties in their area.

The Government added that local authorities will be able to use the funds raised through the new empty home premium to keep council tax levels down for working families.

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