Why have you reduced your 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.
As part of that common approach we awarded a 100% local discount for the first three months a property becomes empty. Since 2013 many Norfolk districts have already changed their approach to discounts either reducing the discount period to a month or removing it entirely.
Since then, most Norfolk authorities have reviewed their discounts to see if greater consistency of approach can be agreed across the County. In considering this matter South Norfolk Councillors 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 South Norfolk Council is providing 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.
Are you penalising landlords by reducing this discount?
South Norfolk Council takes the view that it is supporting the valuable private rented sector by retaining a discounted period, and at the maximum discounted level.
South Norfolk 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 from April there will no longer be any 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.
Do other Councils give better discounts on empty homes?
The discount for empty homes is a locally decided discount. Looking at the other authorities in the Norfolk and Suffolk area there are empty discounts ranging as follows:
- No discount at all on empty homes
- 25% discount for three months
- 50% discount for one month
- 100% discount for 1 week
- 100% discount for 2 weeks
- 100% discount for 1 month.
South Norfolk 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.