New powers to charge a premium to owners of long-term empty homes

Published: Wednesday, 5th December 2018

Owners of long-term empty properties could be charged a premium on their council tax, under new legal powers designed to bring more homes back into use.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s cabinet will next week (Tuesday 11 December) be asked to agree an additional charge to owners of properties that have been empty and unfurnished for two years or more.

The measures would be used to help tackle problem long-term empty homes, alongside a range of support for homeowners to help them improve their properties.

Cabinet members will discuss new powers under the Rating (Property in Common Occupation) and Council Tax Act 2018 which came into force in November, and allows authorities to charge an empty homes premium of:

  • An extra 100 per cent council tax for properties empty for at least two years from 1 April 2019.
  • An extra 200 per cent council tax for properties empty for at least five years from 1 April 2020.
  • An extra 300 per cent council tax for properties empty for at least 10 years from 1 April 2021.

If cabinet members agree the proposals, they will be put before a meeting of the full council for approval ahead of the new financial year.

Deputy council leader Abi Brown, cabinet member for finance and partnerships, said: “We know that homes can become empty for any number of reasons, such as someone may have inherited a property and not be aware of their responsibilities, or the house could be abandoned, or the owner could be involved in a legal dispute.

“We’ll do all we can to work with homeowners to see if they can access funding, or help them through the process of making planning and building applications. We want to see homes brought back into use, providing quality accommodation to help meet the demand in the city.

“The new legislation is designed to be another tool – with the potential of a financial penalty – to help to tackle those long-term empty properties that cause problems by blighting communities and causing environmental hazards. We want to work with homeowners to encourage them to take action on their properties.”

Council statistics show that there are currently around 1,800 long-term empty properties in the city – where the home has been empty for more than six months.

The authority’s empty homes team has worked with hundreds of homeowners over the last two years, bringing 328 long-term empty homes into use since April 2017 and securing more than £5.1m investment into those properties in that time.

The team is able to offer free technical advice; help to schedule work; liaise with planning, building control and architects; access the Landlord Accreditation Scheme to help sell properties or apply for grants; access safe and warm homes grants; and negotiate with neighbours.

Since April 2013, legislation changes have allowed councils to charge an extra 50 per cent council tax for a property unoccupied and unfurnished for two or more years, and this came into effect in the city in April 2014.

For all media enquiries please contact the Communications Department at Stoke-on-Trent City Council on 01782 232671.