Homeowners face double council tax bills on empty properties to aid ‘crucial services’

Martin Lewis offers advice on council tax rebates

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For the first time, councils in England will be able to double council tax on unoccupied second properties to boost funding for local services. Other homes simply left empty could also see the standard council tax rate doubled after 12 months – as opposed to two years at present.

Currently, homeowners can be charged an extra amount of Council Tax (a ‘premium’) if their second home has been empty for two years or more.

How much they pay will depend on how long the property has been empty. 

If a property should remain unoccupied for two years or more, an additional premium of 100 percent will be payable until such a time as the property is reoccupied.

Homeowners can even be charged up to four times your normal Council Tax bill if your home has been empty for 10 years or more.

A Government source explained that it is “only fair” that property owners do their bit for their towns to help “crucial services.

The source told Daily Mail: “We can’t let empty homes sound the death knell for vibrant towns and villages, and it’s only fair that all property owners do their bit to support their local area. 

“Raising funds through this council tax premium levy will see more money focused on crucial services in a way that can really benefit the whole community and boost levelling up.”

The Government plans will be announced as part of the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill in this week’s Queen’s Speech programme of new legislation.

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English local authorities will gain “discretionary powers” to levy a premium of up to 100 percent on Council Tax bills for second homes that are furnished but not occupied as a sole or main residence.

Town halls will also be able to discourage owners from leaving other properties vacant for long periods by doubling the standard council tax rate after just one year.

Officials underlined the need for the move by pointing out that 72,000 homes have been empty for more than two years across England.

Government sources noted that the additional revenue could be used to keep council tax low for residents, as town halls would get “flexibility on how to spend the funds raised”.

The measures, expected to take effect from April 2024, are part of a wider commitment to address the issue of unaffordable housing facing many communities.

Civic leaders warn that having too many second homes makes it hard for locals to buy a home.

This year, Levelling Up Secretary, Michael Gove, moved to close a tax loophole exploited by second-home owners who pretended to let their properties out to holidaymakers. 

Those with second homes can avoid paying council tax by saying they intended to let their properties out to holiday-makers.

This means that they can qualify as a small business and can benefit from business rates relief.

However, Mr Gove made it clear that from next year second homeowners would have to prove they let their homes out for at least 70 days annually or pay council tax instead. 

Those plans were released after a consultation launched in 2018 and threats last year by the Treasury to close the loophole.

Reports show the number of holiday lets in England has increased from 50,960 in 2019 to 65,000 now.

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