Telford empty home owners face soaring council tax bills
“Absentee homeowners” could see their council tax bill quadruple in three years time under new government powers to avoid long-term unoccupied homes.
Telford & Wrekin’s cabinet heard there were 143 homes in the borough that are owned but lack residents.
Owners are currently charged a 50 per cent premium, but a law change will allow that to rise to 300 per cent.
Councillor Lee Carter, the portfolio holder for finance, told the meeting the council intended to use that power to act on “long-term empty properties”.
In a report before the cabinet, finance and HR assistant director Ken Clarke said the recently-passed Rating (Property in Common Occupation) and Council Tax Act 2018 “gives local authorities discretion to charge a greater council tax premium on empty dwellings”.
He added: “Local authorities currently have power to charge a council tax premium of up to 50 per cent on homes that have been unoccupied and substantially unfurnished for two years or more. This is in addition to the usual council tax charge for that property.
“Telford and Wrekin Council have been charging this additional 50 per cent since April 2013.”
This meant that, under the 2018-2019 council tax rate, an occupied Band B home would be liable for approximately £1,250 per year, and the owners of an unoccupied home would be charged nearly £1,900.
Councillor Carter announced that the borough’s rates of council tax will increase by 3.2 per cent in 2019-2020.
“This rise was agreed last year, and all of that money will go into adults’ and children’s services,” he said.
“However, we will maintain the lowest council tax in the West Midlands and amongst the lowest across all of the unitary authorities in the country.”
Mr Clarke added: “From April 1, 2019, local authorities will be able to charge a premium of up to 100 per cent.
“From April 1, 2020, the premium can be up to 200 per cent for homes empty for more than five years.
“From April 1, 2021, the premium can be up to 300 per cent for properties empty for more than 10 years.”
This would mean the same unoccupied Band B property could cost its owners nearly £5,500 in 2021-22, assuming future council tax rises are similar in scale to this year’s.
Mr Clarke said: “It is the council’s intention to make maximum use of this new power in order to encourage owners of properties that have been empty for a long time, some of which can become a focus for anti-social behaviour, to bring them back in to use, either by selling or renting them.
“There are currently 143 properties being charged the 50 per cent premium.
“An additional 50 per cent premium from April 2019 will generate an additional £80,000 in gross council tax of which Telford and Wrekin Council receives around 77 per cent.”