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Government introduces bill to double council tax on empty homes

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The UK government is introducing legislation designed to bring empty homes back into use and tackle the housing crisis by allowing councils to raise the amount of tax they can charge.

On 19th July, the final amendments were made to the Rating (Property in Common Occupation) and Council Tax (Empty Dwellings) Bill and the Bill will now go to the Commons for consideration of Lords amendments.

This legislation builds on existing laws brought into place in 2013, allowing councils to charge a 50% council tax premium on empty properties. Under the amended Bill, councils will be able to levy an additional charge on homes that have been empty for two or more years. (There will be exceptions, such as for people who have been genuinely trying to sell their home and military personnel working abroad etc).

In 2011, the New Homes Bonus was introduced, giving councils the same financial incentive for bringing an empty home back into use as for building a new one.

Legal website Out-Law reported that the number of empty properties had dropped from 300,000 in 2010 to around 200,000 today, which it credited to the 50% premium and the New Homes Bonus.

Speaking to The Big Issue magazine, Richmond MP and housing minister Rishi Sunak said:
“It is simply wrong that, while there are 200,000 long-term empty properties across the country, thousands of families are desperate for a secure place to call home.

“This new power will equip councils with the tools they need to encourage owners of long-term empty properties to bring them back into use – and at the same time tackle the harmful effect they have on communities through squatting, vandalism and anti-social behaviour.”