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News release from 07/02/2019

Plans to increase Council Tax on empty homes move forward

Plans to increase Council Tax on empty homes move forward

Plans to increase the amount of Council Tax charged on empty homes in South Cambridgeshire have taken a step forward, with leading Councillors saying that doing so would encourage more properties back into use.

Currently the owners of homes that are left empty and substantially unfurnished for more than two years must pay an extra 50% on top of the regular bill.

At a meeting of South Cambridgeshire District Council’s Cabinet yesterday (Wednesday 6 February) members decided to increase that premium, subject to approval at a full Council meeting later this month.

If full Council approval is given, the 50% premium will be replaced by the following arrangements:

  • Homes that are empty for two years or more will be charged double their regular Council Tax (i.e. an additional premium of 100%). This would come into effect from 1 April 2019
  • Homes that are empty for five years or more will be charged a 200% premium on top of their regular Council Tax. This would come into effect from 1 April 2020
  • Homes that are empty for ten years or more will be charged a 300% premium on top of their regular Council Tax. This would come into effect from 1 April 2021

Currently across South Cambridgeshire, there are 100 properties that have been empty for between two years and five years. There are 41 homes that have been empty for between five and ten years. There are 39 properties that have been empty for more than ten years.

Despite these figures, in relative terms, South Cambridgeshire doesn’t have very high numbers of long-term empty properties - especially in comparison to more urban areas. Around 1% of all the homes in the district have been empty for six months or more.

During a recent public consultation that asked for views on these proposals, almost two in three people who responded were in favour of the increased empty homes premium.

Leading Councillors hope that by increasing the Council Tax due on long-term empty homes, their owners will be incentivised to bring them back into use. They are also reminding homeowners that Council housing officers can provide information and support. For example, the Council’s private sector leasing scheme, Shire Homes Lettings, offers homeowners a hassle-free way to rent out their properties with benefits such as guaranteed rental payments and no management fees.

South Cambridgeshire District Council’s Lead Cabinet Member for Finance, Cllr John Williams (pictured - above), said: “This seems like a common-sense approach to try and encourage homes that are empty for a long time to be put to good use. We know there is a shortage of houses in South Cambridgeshire and anything that we can do that leads to more homes that are affordable for people to live in is in my view a good thing. There are sometimes good reasons why homes are left vacant for some time – such as when a property is in probate or being refurbished – and our officers will always try to help where they can. We will look at each case individually. However, it makes no sense to me to have properties sitting empty in the long term when they could be being made into homes for South Cambridgeshire families.”

All members of South Cambridgeshire District Council will vote on the proposed new charging arrangements at a Full Council meeting on Thursday 21 February.

The report considered by Cabinet can be found on this part of our website.