There are big changes set to take place with Council Tax exemptions for vacant properties. Changes are to be implemented on 1st April – could this affect you and your property?
As of 1st April 2013, local authorities will have the discretion to charge full Council Tax on empty properties. These changes will affect properties that have currently been given exemptions and discounts, including properties for sale and rent, and second homes.
Owners of properties that are empty because of building work will also lose the automatic right to be let off Council Tax for up to a year. Many councils have decided to charge the full amount from day one.
These are the exact changes:
1. Exemption class C (properties that are empty and unfurnished for up to six months) has been abolished and each council can decide whether to award a local discount in its place
2. Councils can decide to charge an additional premium of up to 50% on homes that have been empty and unfurnished for two years or more
3. Exemption class A (properties requiring or undergoing major repairs for up to 12 months) has been abolished and each council can decide whether to award a local discount in its place
4. The minimum discount that councils can give for furnished homes that are no one’s ‘sole or main residence’ – i.e. second homes and unoccupied furnished lets – has been reduced from 10% to 0%.
Local councils vary in their approach. For example, some are charging full Council Tax from day one, while others are allowing a short ‘grace’ period of perhaps a month and then either levying full Council Tax or a proportion of it for the next five months.
For example, Southwark Council in London is allowing empty, unfurnished properties to be exempt for two months, after which the full charge is applied. However, there is no exemption at all for empty, furnished rental properties. On properties empty for two years or more, it will charge a ‘premium’ of 50%.
Spelthorne Council is giving a one-month exemption to empty, unfurnished rental properties, and then giving a 50% discount in month two, followed by a 25% discount in month three, followed by no discount. It, too, will be charging 150% Council Tax on properties empty for over two years.
Information as to what each local council has decided should be on their websites, or should be available be contacting your local council. Home owners are also warned not to assume that neighbouring councils will have adopted the same pricing policies. Even neighbouring councils have decided to adopt different polices to each other.
The local authority will have to be notified promptly of empty properties, even if the property is to be empty for a very short period of time, perhaps between tenants for example. One of the aims of the changes is to discourage long-term empty homes. However, this has sparked speculation as to what the impact will be.
Will Landlords be more flexible on rental prices if they are suddenly faced with council tax bills? Perhaps people will be likely to take advantage of selling empty properties by auction, as this can usually lead to a faster sale, reducing periods of a property being vacant and subject to council tax bills.
If you do currently own an empty property it would be advisable to make enquiries immediately as to the impact you face personally, and then speak to us about how we may be able to help. At Ryder and Dutton we are able to help you rent properties out, as well as sell by private sale or Auction. As these changes take effect from 1st April 2013 it may be advisable to look at your options sooner, rather than later.
Original Content Estate Agent Today