Derbyshire Dales District Council is consulting residents, owners of empty properties and other stakeholders on potential changes to the Council Tax charged on homes that have been empty for more than 5 years and more than 10 years. Empty homes are defined as those which are unoccupied and substantially unfurnished.
In 2013 the Government gave councils the power to charge a 50% premium, i.e. the whole Council Tax is charged, plus half again. From 1st April 2019 the government gave Councils the power to double the council tax on homes empty for more than 2 years. Derbyshire Dales DC previously adopted this change following consultation in 2018. There was overwhelming support at the time to do this, with 74% of respondents keen to see the premium introduced.
From 1st April 2020 Councils have had the power to triple the council tax on homes empty for 5 to 10 years and from the 1st April 2021 quadruple it for those empty for more than a decade.
Derbyshire Dales DC is considering adopting the higher premiums for homes empty for more than 5 years and more than 10 years. We estimate this will impact up to 100 empty homes. These properties represent a small but deteriorating proportion of the homes in the district. Some have been empty for longer than 10 years and show little sign of being brought back in to use. The Council recognises that some of these homes could be in a poor state of repair and it could take some time for owners to bring them back in to use. Some owners may also be in the middle of renovating or selling their property. As such the Council is keen to know your views about adopting the higher premiums from April 1st 2023, giving owners sufficient time to sell or renovate their property.
These changes are proposed because empty homes are a wasted resource and can be the cause of anti-social behaviour. Empty homes also drain the heat from neighbouring occupied properties and impact the value of homes next door. By increasing the Council Tax on homes that have been empty for more than 5 and 10 years, the Council aims to encourage owners to sell, improve or let their property. This will help to meet local housing need and reduce pressure for greenfield land to be released to build new homes. Additional resources raised by these higher council taxes could also be used to support a new officer post. This post would be dedicated to providing advice and assistance to the owners of empty homes who are unsure how to go about bringing them back into use.
Derbyshire Dales District Council is the Billing authority and has the power to increase council tax on long term empty homes. This is known as the ‘empty homes premium’. It is for the District Council to decide whether to levy an empty homes premium.
The Council is mindful that some people may face financial difficulty if the higher premiums are introduced. If owners are in financial hardship, the Council has the discretion to cover the cost of the premium through a discretionary council tax discount.
The Council does not want to penalise owners who are actively trying to bring their property back in to use. Owners can face delays when trying to get planning permission or getting quotes from builders. The Council could also introduce a new discretionary council tax discount where there is evidence the owner is trying to bring the property back in to use but is experiencing delays through no fault of their own. This will benefit the owner but, because of the government regulations around council tax discounts, the cost of the discount would have to be funded by all of the residents in the Dales through their council tax. We are therefore keen to understand your views on whether or not the Council should assist owners of empty properties by providing a discount, even when there is no evidence that the owner will face undue hardship in paying the premium.
Government policy on long term empty homes
There is pressure from Government to tackle the 200,000+ empty homes in England. One policy from the government designed to reduce the number of empty homes is to allow councils to introduce the empty homes premium. This was first outlined in the government’s 2017 white paper, Fixing our Broken Housing Market. (see https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/fixing-our-broken-housing-market)
Any uplift in Council Tax premium on long term empty homes will generate new resources for the District Council, Derbyshire County Council and the Police and Fire Authorities.
You can find more information about the national campaign to reduce the number of empty homes here https://www.actiononemptyhomes.org/
Benefits of bringing empty homes back in to use;
- The district council would use its proportion of the extra council tax to fund a dedicated officer post to support owners who need help to sell, renovate or let their property.
- As more empty homes are brought back in to use, more New Homes Bonus (NHB) will come to the Derbyshire Dales. NHB is a grant from government designed to reward councils when they build new homes or bring empty homes back in to use. If the number of empty homes goes up, the Council receives less NHB.
- The construction and property sectors could receive a boost through renovation and occupation of homes.
- Provision of affordable and potentially market homes through properties brought back in to use will help meet housing need, reducing the pressure to build new homes on greenfield land.
- Neighbours of empty homes will also benefit.