New proposed legislation that could double council tax for homes left empty is progressing through parliament following a committee stage hearing yesterday.
The Rating (Property in Common Occupation) and Council Tax (Empty Dwellings) Bill aims to bolster existing powers to reduce the number of homes left without an occupier for two years or longer. The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government move aims to increase the premium charge of 50 per cent that was introduced in 2013.
Proposed amendments to the bill at the hearing suggested making council tax hikes even higher, with an escalating scale going on to charge 200 per cent rises for homes empty for five-to-ten years and 300 per cent for 10 years plus. There were also suggestions to reduce the threshold for classing a home as empty to one year, rather than two, while Lord Stunell proposed slashing the 100 per cent hike by a quarter for landlords who have improved the energy performance of homes.
None of the amendments were carried through, however, with Communities Minister Lord Bourne warning of the dangers of turning council tax away from a “source of funding to a more punitive type of measure”.
Big Issue founder Lord Bird also had an amendment mentioned in his absence, aiming to allow councils the freedom to tailor the duration that a home can be empty for to fit their area.
Responding to the suggestion, Lord Bourne said: “The risk of the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Bird, is that it would give local authorities an open door to extend that definition to types of properties that are not genuinely empty.