What is the discount for empty properties?
Since 2013 local authorities have had some local discretion over the discount level and period of award for empty properties. South Norfolk Council initially agreed a common approach with most other Norfolk Councils.
Since 2013 many Norfolk districts have already changed their approach to discounts either reducing the discount period to a month or removing it entirely. When reviewing our discount we felt strongly that there needed to be a period of discount to support landlords in redecorating and re-letting properties in between tenants. It is for this reason that we provide a one month fully discounted period rather than charging from the date a property first becomes empty.
We have found that in over 65% of cases where there was an empty period, the property was re-occupied within a month without the need for a longer discounted period.
Local councils have had their grant funding from central government cut by over three-quarters over the four years since the three month empty discount period was previously agreed (over £3 million cut). In such financial circumstances councils need to think carefully how they use their discretions to reduce Council Tax through discount setting powers. The change in discounted period is expected to raise less than £20k for South Norfolk Council.
Impact on landlords...
We take the view that it is supporting the valuable private rented sector by retaining a discounted period, and at the maximum discounted level.
We felt that retaining a discounted period does provide some encouragement for the growing private rented sector, acknowledging that it does often take time to turn a property around between lets. However, given the evidence that most empty properties were re-occupied within a month, it was felt that a discount of a one calendar month fully discounted period would still provide a reasonable degree of support while also incentivising vacant homes to be made available to tenants as quickly as possible (boosting the housing market and the options available to local renters).
It is at the discretion of the Local Authority whether any discount is offered for empty properties. We have looked at what other authorities charge across Norfolk and Suffolk and understand that no Councils across the two counties offering empty home discounts of greater value than one month at 100%.
Please note that this discount is applicable to the property from the date it becomes unoccupied and unfurnished, not the date on which liability changes. If the liable party changes within the one month period, the new party will only receive the balance of the discount period remaining.
We feel that the discount we are offering for one month is still a generous one, which reflects our research findings on the length of time it takes for a property to be re occupied, while also incentivising quick return of properties to the rental market.
What about Long Term Empty Properties?
Since 2013 Local Authorities have been given the power to charge a Council Tax premium of 50% for properties (where exemptions do not apply) that have been empty for more than 2 years. New legislation passed in 2018 allow this premium (or LEVY) to be increased as follows:
- An extra 100% of council tax charged where the dwelling has been empty for at least two years from 1 April 2019
- An extra 200% of council tax charged where the dwelling has been empty for at least five years from 1 April 2020
- An extra 300% of council tax charged where the dwelling has been empty for at least 10 years from 1 April 2021
Statutory exemptions from this empty premium do still apply and I would encourage you check the list of exemptions to see whether your property fits into any of the categories that could be exempt.
Should you wish to apply for such an exemption please download, complete and return the following form, outlining the reasons why you believe the premium should not apply. Download an Empty Property Premium Exemption form.