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

From April 12013, English local authorities have been allowed to charge an ‘empty homes premium’ for long term empty dwellings. Unoccupied and substantially unfurnished properties which have been empty for over two years can at the discretion of the local authority attract a charge of up to 150 percent of the usual rate. (In Scotland the total charge can be as high as 200 percent of the usual rate and it can be applied to properties which have been empty for over one year.) The empty homes premium will not be charged on properties which are already exempt from council tax. Properties which form a substantial annexe to a main residence and which are used as part of that dwelling can not be charged the premium. In addition an empty property which would otherwise be the sole or main dwelling of a person serving in the armed forces and is away from home for that reason can not have the premium applied to it. The intention of the government in allowing billing authorities to charge a council tax premium was not to penalise the owners of empty homes that were genuinely for sale or rent. It was expected by the government that councils would consider the reasons why properties were unfurnished and unoccupied taking into account the availability of the properties for sale or rent. Councils could decide if they wanted to include these properties in their determination. Regulations in Scotland provide that properties that have been empty for less than two years will be exempt if they are being marketed for sale or rent.  Liability for paying the premium will be determined by the period of time that the dwelling has been empty. For example if someone buys a home in England that has been empty for two years they may have to pay the premium immediately. (In Scotland the period would be one year). See also Empty Homes - Second Homes.







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