Huge extra charges to be slapped on empty homes in Northumberland as new council tax premiums approved

Councillors in Northumberland have backed huge extra charges on council tax bills for homes left empty for long periods in a bid to bring them back into use.

Thursday, 7th November 2019, 4:44 pm
Updated Saturday, 9th November 2019, 9:14 am
File picture of an empty property
File picture of an empty property

The new scheme, which was given final approval at Northumberland County Council’s full meeting on Wednesday (November 6), introduces additional empty home premiums (EHP) from April next year for properties that are ‘unoccupied and substantially unfurnished’.

Currently, owners of long-term empty homes pay a 50% premium on top of their full council tax bill.

From April 2020, the premium will be 100% for properties left for between two and five years and 200% for those longer than five years.

An additional 300% premium for homes left empty for more than 10 years will come into force from April 2021.

After asking several questions, Lib Dem leader, Coun Jeff Reid, said: “I wish it luck, but there are one or two problems I can see with it.

“Houses that have been empty for a long time, there’s always a story behind it. I’m not really certain how some of those knotty problems can be dealt with, but I’m willing to give it a try.”

Coun Scott Dickinson, the Labour deputy leader, said: “We’ve had the ability since April 2013 to collect additional rates and this seems like the natural progression.

“This is about encouraging empty properties back into use and there are a large number of people on waiting lists so some of these properties could be used to house people through good private landlords, working with the council on a partnership approach or a social landlord, whatever it might be.

“The Labour group certainly supports this incentive, which is what it will turn out to be, for landlords and property owners to actually do something with empty properties that cause concern across Northumberland in all our communities in some shape or form.”

There are currently 673 dwellings in Northumberland which have been empty for two years or more, of which 152 have been unoccupied and unfurnished for between five and 10 years and 105 for 10 years or more, although the council’s chairman, Coun Richard Dodd, questioned if these figures were accurate, suggesting they could be higher.

The current average band D charge across Northumberland is £1,915.43. A 100% EHP would increase this to £3,830.86. A 300% premium would result in an overall bill of £7,661.72.