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Consultation on increasing the council tax on empty properties and second homes


We reviewed our policy around council tax charges for empty properties and second homes. From July to September 2023, we gathered your views on whether to increase the amount we charge (premium) for long term empty properties and second homes.

What's the latest?

Thank you to everyone who took part in our consultation. There were 714 individual responses to the survey. The consultation did not highlight any viable areas of concern that had not already been considered. The majority of responses were aligned to the positive introduction of the proposals and the positive impact this could have on additional income for us at a time when we are having to make millions of pounds of savings due to continued reductions in government funding.  

The Levelling up & Regeneration Bill, referred to below, received Royal Assent in October 2023, so this has now passed into law. Our Cabinet considered a report on the proposals, which included findings from the consultation, at its November meeting and agreed to adopt the three proposals as outlined below.

You can read more about the consultation and the proposals in the Cabinet report at Cabinet Agenda and Minutes - November 15 2023, Agenda Item 4.

Background

These proposals are intended to bring properties back into use while also contributing additional income to reduce the savings we need to make. They come at a time when we are having to make millions of pounds of savings due to continued reductions in government funding. The income generated from their introduction could help reduce this balance. Other councils are considering similar moves.

The government's Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill, which has now passed into law, will allow local councils to charge higher council tax on properties that are defined as long term empty homes and ones that are only occupied occasionally (second homes) than they do now. This is called the Long Term Empty Property and Second Home Council Tax Premium.

The additional charge encourages owners to bring them back into use and could boost the supply of properties available to rent in the county and help support our housing and homeless strategies and regeneration in some local areas.

What are the changes that we proposed

We considered three changes - two are part of the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill, and one is already covered by current law.

  • Proposal one (covered by current law): from 1 April 2024, to increase the additional council tax charge for properties which have been unoccupied and unfurnished for more than 10 years from 200% to 300%. 300% means the council tax will be four times the usual amount. Currently, there is not a 10 year rule in Durham.  
  • Proposal two (now passed into law): from 1 April 2024, to reduce the length of time a property can be unoccupied and unfurnished before being charged an additional 100% council tax premium from the current two years to one year. This means a council tax of two times the usual amount.
  • Proposal three (now passed into law): from 1 April 2025, to increase the council tax payable by 100% on a second home property, where there is no resident, and which is substantially furnished. This means a council tax of two times the usual amount.

We realise that some of the properties affected are not deliberately kept empty but that the owners cannot sell or let them for various reasons which are often beyond their control. Introducing the additional charges therefore could lead to an increased financial burden in some cases. To deal with this, we will review our Section 13A policy which explains where a reduction in the premium may be applied.  For more information see Council Tax on empty properties and second homes.

Have your say

We wanted to know your views on the proposals and how they affected you.

The Government also recognises that there may be circumstances where it might not be appropriate for council tax premiums to apply and had its own consultation on possible exceptions to the council tax premiums: Gov.uk: consultation on proposals to exempt categories of dwellings from the council tax premiums in England

The closing date for comments was 5.00pm on 13 September 2023.

The closing date for the Government's consultation was 31 August 2023.