There are a number of changes to council tax that came into force on 1 April 2013. Here we explain what has changed and answer some of your questions.
Changes to council tax discounts for empty properties
The Government asked us to make changes to the council tax paid on some empty properties.
This is to encourage owners to bring empty homes back into use more quickly.
What do the changes mean?
This means some people now pay more council tax, for example
- owners of second homes
- owners of empty properties
- owners of properties that will have been empty for 2 years or more, and
- anyone who owns a property that is in need of or awaiting major works or structural repair and remains empty.
The policies that came into effect on April 1 2013 are:
- Previously, empty homes needing or undergoing major structural repair or alteration to render them habitable (class A) were exempt for one year. This is now replaced with a 50 per cent discount for one year.
- Previously, an unoccupied, unfurnished home (class C) was exempt for six months. Now it is eligible for a 50 per cent discount for three months.
- There is now a 10 per cent discount for medium term empty properties (three months to two years.) Previously this was 50%.
- there is now a 150 per cent charge on long term empty properties (more than two years.) Previously this was a 50 per cent discount..
The time period relating to empty properties begins when the property first became empty.
Other discounts and exemptions are not affected by these changes.
Why have these changes been made?
- To better reflect the costs of providing services to these properties and to encourage occupation of empty properties.
- To discourage property owners from leaving properties unoccupied for any length of time.
- To help fund the new Council Tax Reduction Scheme that will replace Council Tax Benefit.
Are second home 10% discounts affected?
Yes, any property that is furnished and is no-one's main residence will receive no discount. For example if you are a landlord and you have a furnished let that is untenanted you will pay 100% charge.
Is the single person discount being changed?
No, this remains at 25% for the moment.
If my property becomes empty and unfurnished am I still entitled to an exemption?
No, the Class C Exemption has been replaced with a 50% discount for up 3 months, even short vacant periods will attract a charge.
Are there any properties that will still only pay 50% indefinitely?
Yes, if you have to live in a second property that is provided by your employer such as publicans or caretakers you may be eligible to pay 50% on one of the properties. Or, if all residents of a property fall into a disregarded category, such as apprentices, then the 50% discount will still apply for as long as the terms of the discount are met.
The property is being rebuilt and substantial structural works are taking place what can I do?
What We Cannot Change
We are sometimes asked why we do not charge Council Tax to certain people, or why we do not give exemptions to other people. The answer is that most of the Council Tax rules are set by government legislation and we do not have the power to change them.
Here are a few examples of things that we have no discretion to change:
- decisions about whether a property is liable or not for Council Tax and the band that it is in (it is the government's Valuation Office Agency that decides this)
- the rules around who is liable to pay Council Tax
- the amount of the Sole Occupier Discount (25%) or criteria for claiming it
- the rules around other properties being exempt from Council Tax e.g., where the owner has died or in a nursing home
- the rules around other properties being allowed a discount from Council Tax e.g., where certain occupants are students, carers or severely mentally impaired.