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Shock for empty home owners as West Suffolk Council introduce council tax bill hike

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Properties that have lain empty for two years or more in West Suffolk could be slapped with soaring council tax bills in a bid to bring houses back into use.

West Suffolk Council’s cabinet will be presented with proposals next week which would allow the authority to charge property owners 300 per cent council tax if a property has been empty for five years or more from April 2020, and 400 per cent for those vacant for 10 years from April 2021.

According to the council, it is part of a drive to help the district meet its housing need by bringing empty homes back into use.

West Suffolk House....PICTURE: Mecha Morton.... (22109686)
West Suffolk House....PICTURE: Mecha Morton.... (22109686)

The council’s report said: “In offering these new powers Government was seeking to influence owners to bring empty homes back in to use as well as the ability for councils to increase council tax income.

“The extension of the long term empty property premium scheme is intended to incentivise landlords to bring long term empty properties back into use. It is focussed on those properties that have been, and continue to be, empty for more than five years in the first instance and increases again for those properties that have been empty for more than 10 years.”

The plans are being recommended for approval at next week’s cabinet meeting, and must then go to full council for a final sign-off.

It is the first council to take advantage of the new Government powers. East Suffolk, Babergh and Mid Suffolk and Ipswich Borough Councils currently charge up to 200 per cent council tax for homes empty two years or more.

According to West Suffolk council data, there were 180 properties empty for two years or more as of the beginning of this month. Of those 180, 92 had been empty for five years or more – 34 of which had been empty for a decade.

It means that if all of those properties remained empty, the council would generate an additional £20,000 income based on West Suffolk’s share of the council tax bill.

To date the council has run the Empty Homes Grant which helps landlords renovate properties so they can be occupied by tenants again. In September, the authority said that in the 12 months prior it had brought 52 long term empty properties back into use – those empty for six months or more – while a further 22 had been demolished to make way for new builds.