Owners of empty homes in Northumberland face massive council tax bills under new plans
Owners of homes left empty for long periods in Northumberland are set to face council tax bills four times higher than the going rate.
Northumberland County Council is taking advantage of changes in national legislation in an attempt to bring these properties back into use.
The new scheme, which was approved by the authority’s cabinet at its meeting on October 8, 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 unoccupied and substantially unfurnished for between two and five years and 200% for those in that state for longer than five years.
An additional 300% premium for homes left empty for more than 10 years will come into force from April 2021.
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.
Introducing the report, Coun Nick Oliver, the cabinet member for corporate services, said: “We have probably all got them in our wards, empty homes which become a blight on our communities.”
He explained that there is a degree of support available for those owners who may need help to bring homes back into use.
Council leader Peter Jackson said: “It’s a relief we have got extra powers to take action. These empty properties often have a disproporionately bad effect on communities, but up to now we felt a bit powerless to deal with them.”
Coun Veronica Jones asked how the homes in line for these premiums would be identified and assessed, fearing that owners may put furniture in so that they are not ‘substantially unfurnished’, but Coun Oliver said there would be ‘proper, thorough inspections’.
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.
Outside the meeting, Coun Oliver added: “Unfortunately some properties are left empty for long periods of time, often getting into a state of disrepair and attracting antisocial behaviour, when they could be providing an income to their owner and much-needed accommodation for people in Northumberland.
“The premium payment is not intended to penalise owners of a property that is genuinely on the housing market and is up for sale or rent. It aims to make sure that we are bringing properties that are vacant back into use so we can increase the county’s housing stock and make sure that Northumberland has more homes available for its residents.
“The council has a good track record of working with homeowners, offering a range of assistance and incentives to help them bring their properties back into residential use. Since October 2018, the housing team has assisted in returning over 100 empty properties back into use.”
For more information, contact the private-sector housing team on 01670 622299 or email [email protected]