A 50% council tax increase could be on the way for owners of empty properties across many parts of the country in an effort to bring long term vacant homes back into use.
Councils in various parts of the UK, including Cardiff, Coventry, Worcester, Doncaster, Burnley, Wakefield, Sefton, among others, are planning to remove the 50% council tax discount for unoccupied and unfurnished homes in an attempt to reduce the number of vacant properties.
Councils can charge a premium of up to 100% on properties left unoccupied or substantially unfurnished for more than a year.
Many councils view the idea of bringing empty homes back into use as a good way to address a high demand from renters and low availability of properties on the private rented market.
For example, in a bid to create additional housing stock across Sefton borough in the North West of England, Sefton Council is seeking feedback from private landlords regarding new legislation that could see council tax charges increase from 50% to 100% on homes that are left empty.
With around 645 vacant properties in Sefton that have been left empty for more than two years, the new legislation proposed by the council are looking to roll out the new payment policy from April 2019.
So is this fair?
Madalena Penny, director of lettings and property auction firm Penny Joseph, commented: “At first glance Sefton Council’s proposed legislation can appear detrimental to private landlords, by penalising them for vacant properties.
“However, if the policy is implemented fairly, it could lead to freeing up more homes to people in need of property, and help private landlords get a return on their investment.”
According to statistics by the ONS (Office of National Statistics), there are currently around 107,350 households in the private rented sector across Sefton.
Penny continued: “Sefton Council should understand, that there are a number of private landlords that have no choice when it comes to vacant property. In a number of cases, the need for extensive property maintenance along with tenant damage and rent arrears can leave properties without a tenant, due to financial problems.
“Not one size fits all, and each case should be looked at individually on an appeal basis. Perhaps with the additional revenue collected by the proposed legislation, Sefton Council can offer grants to refurbish properties left vacant and unfit for habitation.”