COUNCIL TAX

EMPTY HOMES DISCOUNTS

 


 
 
 

 

For the purposes of Council Tax, empty homes are dwellings which are “Unoccupied and substantially unfurnished”, although this term is not defined in statute. It is for council tax billing authorities to decide which properties satisfy this definition. There is a substantial amount of case law on the subject, and if people disagree with the decisions of billing authorities they can appeal to the Valuation Tribunal.

On April 1 2013 council tax billing authorities in England were given a greater degree of control over a number of council tax discounts, including discounts for empty homes. It meant that councils could if they wished allow no discounts for empty homes. Until April 2013 empty properties could qualify for council tax exemption Class C, under which they would be exempt from council tax for up to six months, and after this period they would be given a discount of between 0% and 50%. This provision was discontinued in 2013 when local authorities were given the power to decide whether to grant a local discount in its place. The local discount for empty homes could range from 0% to 100%. The legislation now permits local authorities to allow a discount at a rate of up to 100% for whatever length of time they choose. Vacant properties undergoing “major repair work” or “structural alteration” were previously exempt from council tax for up to a year. This exemption class no longer exists and it has been replaced by a discount. After April 1 2013 local authorities have been allowed to set their own discounts which can range from 0 to 100 percent. Some authorities for example may grant 50 percent discounts for the period of a year, after which full council tax will be payable. Properties classed as uninhabitable can therefore be liable for council tax.

One of the implications of the changes is that an owner occupier in receipt of a single person discount who moves out of their home leaving it empty and still furnished could have to pay an increase in council tax. The single person discount will not be granted for an empty home which means that they may have to pay 100% council tax on the property instead of receiving 25% discount. If the property is subsequently rented out, the new tenants would have to pay the council tax. In addition landlords could have to pay council tax for empty periods between tenancies. Under the previous regulations the six month exemption would have resulted in no liability for council tax.  But under the new system a landlord could be liable for paying council tax for the period between the departure of one tenant and the arrival of another. Full council tax may also be liable on empty homes that that are being renovated. For example if a person buys a home and then spends a period of time rebuilding or repairing the property and do not live in it during this period they may have to pay full council tax while the work is being carried out. This would apply even if the property cannot be lived in during the period of renovation. Taking effect on April 1 2014 Government legislation allows 50 percent discount for annexes occupied by a relative of a person liable for council tax in the main home. The reduction also applies if the annexe is used in conjunction with the main home. The discount is funded by central government and it will be granted after any premiums or other discounts have been applied. There was already an exemption for annexes occupied by dependants over the age of 65, or if severely disabled. This council tax exemption continues to apply. It is estimated that there are 24,150 family annexes in England and it is argued that tax cuts could encourage more of these as well new extensions and conversions of outbuildings.

 

 

 

 

 

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