News release from 22/02/2019

Council Tax to increase on empty homes

Council Tax to increase on empty homes

Higher Council Tax charges will be due on homes that are left empty across South Cambridgeshire – to try and encourage them back into use.

At a full Council meeting yesterday (Thursday 21 February) members of South Cambridgeshire District Council voted to approve the new charging arrangements, which target homes left empty for years at a time. This followed the Council’s Cabinet recommending the new charging structure during their meeting on Wednesday 6 February.

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. Following the full Council meeting, 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 will 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 will 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 will come into effect from 1 April 2021

Right now 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: “The aim of this new charging structure is simply to encourage as many empty homes back into use as possible. We know all about this area’s housing challenges so must look at all of the options open to us to help meet them. It just doesn’t make sense to have houses, that local people could be living in, sitting empty for years at a time. It’s also worth noting that we’ll retain relatively little of the additional charges because they will be shared out between all the different local bodies that we collect Council Tax for. There can be very valid reasons for a home to be left empty for some time, such as when it is going through probate, and our officers will do their very best to advise and guide property owners, making decisions on a case by case basis.”

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