The UK Government is set to hand English councils the power to charge owners of empty homes double their current council tax charge. The move comes as the UK’s housing shortage continues and is one of a number of measures designed to quickly increase the amount of residential housing available for the country’s population.
The move was unveiled at the end of March and follows similar moves in Scotland and Wales in recent years.
“There are an estimated 200,000 empty homes across England, homes that if they were brought back into use, could make a real difference to the provision and availability of housing across the country,” said Newington Green estate agent, M&M Property. “It’s hoped that by penalising owners of empty homes, they will encourage them to bring them back into use either by selling them or renting them out.”
Into line with Scotland and Wales
Empty English homes are already subject to an additional 50% council tax charge. However, the new legislation will allow local councils to impose a double council tax rate on residential properties that have been empty for 2 years or more.
Any additional income relating to double council tax payments will be used to help keep council tax rates lower across the country, the Government said.
Since that 50% charge was put in place and used by 291 out of 326 local councils, the Government estimates there has been a 100,000 reduction in the number of empty properties across England.
Councils in Scotland have been able to levy a double council tax charge on homes that have been empty for one year or more, since 2013. Meanwhile in Wales, local councils have had those same powers since 2017.
“While the English councils’ ability to apply a double council tax rate will only apply after two years, it should still act as a deterrent and hopefully encourage more home-owners to bring their empty homes back into use ahead of the two-year limit,” said Assetgrove.
Tackling lack of housing and anti-social behaviour
While the main aim of the planned double council tax on empty homes is predominantly designed to bring more homes in use across England, there is another potential benefit if it works. And that’s to help reduce the occurrences of anti-social behaviour that often spring up around empty properties.
Vandalism and squatting are just two types of anti-social behaviour that are associated with long-term empty properties. And this behaviour can have a detrimental impact on local communities. By reducing the number of empty properties that often attract this type of behaviour, the double council tax charge could also work to help bring communities together.
However, while you might be concerned that a property of yours could be unfairly charged a double rate of council tax, there are a number of exemptions in pace to protect certain empty homes. They include:
- Homes that are empty because the owner or primary occupant must live in Armed Forces accommodation.
- When the owner goes into care.
- Discounts to the double rate can also be applied when homes are long-term empty due to certain special circumstances.
“The Government’s previous 50% council tax increase on empty properties appears to have yielded some positive results and that’s likely a notable reason behind the planned change to the handling of empty of homes in England,” said Plaza Estates. “With luck, the plan to double council tax charges on long-term empty homes will encourage even more home owners to bring their homes back to the market in some way and help create more homes for those who desperately need them.”