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Council tax and empty properties

There are various rules around paying council tax on properties left empty, including empty and furnished, or unfurnished. In some cases these rules aim to discourage leaving properties empty for long periods. 

Overview of rules around unoccupied, furnished properties

Properties left empty for short periods of time may be exempt from paying council tax. The exemption may only last for a fixed period of time, after which a charge becomes due and payable.

These are as follows:

  • A property left unoccupied but furnished due to a bereavement is exempt from the date of the persons death to six months after probate has been granted
  • A property left unoccupied and furnished by a person who has gone into a residential care home on a permanent basis. (This will not apply to properties subsequently rented out for any period after a tenant has been in occupation.)
  • A property left unoccupied but furnished by a person who has left to either receive care or to give care to another due to illness, disability or old age in their home, which is not a nursing home.
  • A property left unoccupied but furnished by a person who is in prison.
  • A property left unoccupied but furnished where the owner is a student

Overview of rules around unoccupied, unfurnished properties

Properties that are left unfurnished and unoccupied maybe entitled to a discount or exemption, some for up to six months, some for up to 12, and some for no fixed time period.

These are as follows:

  • After a period of two years has elapsed from the date that a property first became empty and unfurnished, an empty homes premium charge will be levied. This maybe a date before you purchased the property.
  • The premium will be 50% above the full Council Tax payable on your property and will replace the 75% previously charged. 
  • For the first month that the property is empty and unfurnished a 100% discount is applicable, up until 24 months a 25% discount is applicable. After 24 months there is no discount and 150% of the council tax is payable.
  • Should you purchase a property that is already empty you should check with the council the date the property first became empty and unfurnished to be able to determine when a premium would commence.

Examples of unfurnished and unoccupied properties 

  • Properties undergoing major structural repairs are entitled to 25% discount for up to 12 months
  • Properties left empty and unfurnished are entitled to a discount of 100% for one month followed by a 25% discount from the date the property first became unfurnished. This may be a date before you purchased the property.
  • Properties where occupation is prohibited by law - no time limit up to the order being lifted
  • Properties that have been repossessed - no time limit up to the time of sale
  • An unoccupied annexe
  • A property left unoccupied, which is the responsibility of a trustee in bankruptcy

If a property you own becomes unoccupied you must tell staff in the Council Tax department immediately. You could qualify for a reduction or an exemption if you meet any of the criteria shown above.

Report a change of circumstances

When an exemption expires, a charge of 75% of the full charge will be due and payable.

The person responsible for paying is the owner or the person who holds a lease or rental agreement. If at any time the property changes hands, the new owner becomes liable for the tax or any remaining time of the exemption if the property remains unoccupied.

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