Empty homes lose tax break


Owners of properties undergoing refurbishment or structural repair that result in the building being uninhabitable will no longer receive a 50% Council Tax rebate. In future owners will   be charged the full Council Tax on their property, irrespective of whether it is undergoing major building work that renders it unoccupied.

The move was approved at Rother District Council’s meeting on December 17.  Rother recognised that neighbouring councils, such as Hastings, do not offer a discount for uninhabitable properties.

Hastings Borough Council have in fact gone one step further and have announced that, as of April 2019, if a home is left empty for two years, the Council Tax payable on the property will double.

The charge will apply to all properties that have been left empty and unfurnished. In 2018 the Council estimates there were 1,334 empty properties in Hastings, up from 1,112 in 2017.

The charge will increase further to 200% extra from April 2020 for properties left empty for more than five years, and increased again to 300% extra from April 2021 for properties left empty for more than 10 years.

Peter Chowney, leader of Hastings Borough Council said: “We have used compulsory purchase as a way to bring homes that have been left empty the longest back into use.  But we have a housing shortage in this town, and there are still too many properties left empty. These new punitive council tax charges will work alongside our compulsory purchase programme to make sure empty homes are brought back into use.”

One wonders how long it will take for Rother District Council to follow Hastings’ lead.

Image Credits: Library image https://pixabay.com/en/hastings-uk-houses-castle-medieval-3527066/.

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  1. At long last Rother district council are addressing the problem of empty houses in Rye, this has been a scandal for too long, with people sitting on empty houses, which does nothing for the town’s economy, hopefully they will soon follow Hastings Council and increase council taxes further, and put an end to this practise.
    [Note. This comment has been very slightly edited to comply with our guidelines]

  2. Whilst few would complain about property speculators who have taken housing out of the available stock being charged at least the full amount of Council Tax, I am worried that it seems to suggest Rother will charge everyone in full, no matter what their circumstances. For example, say, a young family in South Undercliff find their two-bedroom becomes uninhabitable following a landslip on the cliff behind and above them. Do they then have to pay full council tax on their uninhabitable home while repairs are effected (and the cliff is stabilised?) plus a further full council charge on the rental home they are forced into for the duration? What about an elderly person living in a terraced house whose home is gutted by a fire that started in the neighbouring property and who has to move out while their house is repaired? Should they be double charged? Of course there may be insurance policies that cover this sort of thing but, sadly, I imagine they are far and few between!

  3. How about doing the same for second homes, if you can afford a second home you can afford double the council charges.

  4. I think this can only be good news and something I have been urging the council to consider for years. Winchelsea has a ridiculous number of empty properties, some small enough to be considered ‘first home potential’ but they have been effectively removed from the fluid market for years. Rye has a similar situation developing. Owners of empty homes, second homes should all contribute to the cost of council services.

  5. The free market economy, aided and abetted by local estate agents, close proximity to London, and a dearth of available housing stock, because very little new housing ever gets built, has put selling prices and rents beyond the reach of most ordinary local people. This is a travesty. It has also diminished and unbalanced the community, quite literally, as the population of the town has systematically gone down over the years and we are in danger of becoming something akin to a drive-in museum. A taxation system which really discourages speculators from buying more and more properties that they don’t need and don’t live in might help to turn the tide and resolve an untenable situation. I know people in Rye who need their own home and currently have no hope of obtaining it. They need and deserve that hope.

  6. In the past new build schemes in Rye had a restriction stating that they cannot be used for holiday lets, this helps to keep their price at a more realistic level when it comes to selling.

  7. Second homes / holiday homes have paid full council tax for a number of years, no discount is available, rental properties used to get a months grace period if the property was empty between tenants, this discount was removed last year, the only change made recently was for properties being refurbished , you could get a 50% discount whilst works were ongoing for up to six months, this discount has been removed, so full council tax is liable on basically all properties.
    Just to add that it is my opinion that empty property is morally wrong, especially when in short supply and there is a need.


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