Tuesday, 09 February 2016

Pickles reveals empty homes council tax plans

Plans to force owners of empty homes to pay council tax will increase the housing supply across England, the government said.

Communities secretary Eric Pickles published a consultation on giving local authorities more control over council tax levels. As part of the reforms, councils could abolish council tax discounts on empty homes.

Currently, councils are required to offer a 100 per cent council tax discount for the first six months a property is empty, and a discount of between 10 and 50 per cent thereafter.

The proposals include plans to allow local authorities to be given the option to charge an empty homes premium on the council tax payable on properties that have been empty for two years or more.

There are 700,000 empty properties in England, 300,000 of which have been vacant for more than six months.

Speaking at the Liberal Democrat conference in September, communities minister Andrew Stunell called the plans ‘an extra weapon in a council’s armoury in the battle to make better use of our housing stock’.

There are no plans to change the rules on council tax relief currently available for homes left empty because a person has moved into a hospital or care home, or has died, or has moved to provide care to another.

A Lib Dem source told Inside Housing that the policy was a win for Lib Dem MPs: ‘Scrapping the second homes discount and doing more to tackle empty homes have been long-standing Lib Dem policies, and Andrew Stunell has been pushing for these reforms for some time.’

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