More ‘empty homes’ attract additional council tax charge

With owners of long-term empty homes in North Kesteven facing council tax bills up to four times higher than for occupied properties, they are advised to seek support and guidance to help bring them back in to use.
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Changes in the legislation affecting long-term empty homes means that from this April any house that has been unfurnished and unoccupied for 12 months or more becomes liable for the owner to pay double the standard council tax charge.

Up to now, that has applied after two years of being empty. This change potentially brings an additional 193 properties under the premium charge within North Kesteven.

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While there are circumstances in which discounts and exemptions can be applied, such as structural alterations or initial two months of vacancy, says the authority, if a house remains empty for more than a year it is now charged at double the full charge of an occupied one. Homes that remain empty after a year of being promoted for sale or rent will also be included.

NKDC chief executive Ian Fytche says leaving homes empty can be costly.NKDC chief executive Ian Fytche says leaving homes empty can be costly.
NKDC chief executive Ian Fytche says leaving homes empty can be costly.

Charges increase to three times the rate after five years and four times after 10 years.

From April 1, 2025, an additional premium on furnished, unoccupied properties will see double council tax apply to second or holiday homes. And from this April an established 10 per cent discount for second homes no longer applies. This affects around 150 properties within North Kesteven.

These are new measures being brought in nationally to speed up the return of empty properties back into functioning accommodation, which North Kesteven District Council has adopted to sustain stronger, safer, more cohesive communities.

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A dedicated project officer supports owners of empty properties across North Kesteven and Lincoln to navigate the legislation and understand the opportunities relating to empty homes. Through their targeted intervention and the involvement of a council-wide initiative drawing in various teams, over the past 13 years or so, around 275 long-term empty homes vacant for two or more years have been brought back into use across North Kesteven.

Of the 493 homes currently known to have been empty for six months or more, 79 have been empty for two or more years, 17 for five or more years and 15 for ten years or longer.

According to NKDC, not only do empty homes represent a lost opportunity for someone to be accommodated and contribute to community life, but they can be a target for damage and anti-social behaviour, cause environmental harm and present a danger – making a greater call on public services.

They are also a costly burden for their owners; requiring maintenance, failing to draw an income, and costing potentially thousands of pounds a year more in charges – which adds up to a stronger push to bring them back into use.

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After two years of standing empty, the council’s Empty Property Working Group pays particular attention to try and identity ownership, liaise and unlock barriers to refurbishment and promote to owners potential VAT reductions or other incentives to restoration and re-habitation.

North Kesteven District Council’s Chief Executive Ian Fytche said there were many ways in which owners could be assisted by the council through the process of returning their assets to use, including seeking planning, technical or trades advice, facilitating marketing opportunities through auction, sale or rent and navigating legal and financial complications.

“Quite often we find that someone has inherited a property that they simply don’t know what to do with or where to start. But through years of experience our officers can bring various aspects of local intelligence, practical support, advice and understanding of legal considerations, discounts and opportunities to bear which can quite literally unlock doors and barriers; bringing back into fruitful use some cherished and once-loved homes.

“I would encourage anyone who owns or is aware of a property that has been empty for six months or more, to seek out advice and guidance on practicalities and available support – which can include financial assistance such as VAT rebates on building materials – and many related matters. Not to do so can be costly in so many ways to so many; not least to community wellbeing and the escalation of council tax liabilities.”

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