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Babergh and Mid Suffolk: Thousands of empty houses and second homes to see Council Tax hike

Thousands of long-term empty houses and second homes in two councils are set to see a significant Council Tax hike.

The proposals – which will see owners of second homes and long-term empty dwellings liable to pay a Council Tax premium – were unanimously approved yesterday by cabinet members at Mid Suffolk and Babergh district councils.

Babergh Cllr Jessie Carter said the new policy would help to tackle the housing shortage and make homes more affordable for residents currently priced out of the market.

Thousands of empty houses and second homes to see council tax hike. Picture: submitted
Thousands of empty houses and second homes to see council tax hike. Picture: submitted

She said: “We are looking to encourage landlords to not have empty homes wasting away, but to have tenants living in them.

“The idea is to give people a bit of a nudge who’ve got empty homes to work with us proactively to get them back on to the rental market.”

For empty homes, the increase would apply from April 1 to houses left unoccupied and substantially unfurnished and would depend on how long homes had been vacan.

It will be calculated as follows:

A 100 per cent increase after a year or more, from April 1, 2019

A 200 per cent increase after five years or more, from April 1, 2020

A 300 per cent increase after 10 years or more, from April 1, 2021

Although both councils had only just decided to increase the premium, which would impact nearly 1,200 houses across both districts, the tax hike had been possible since 2018.

The empty homes are expected to generate nearly £600,000 in Council Tax revenues, with Babergh and Mid Suffolk netting £27,062 and £53,910 once the income was shared across the different preceptors.

Cllr Richard Winch, who proposed the change in Mid Suffolk, said: “This is a common sense measure because we need to get empty properties back into circulation if we possibly can.

“Empty homes are a waste of resources and generally have a negative impact on communities — every council in the country will be looking at this.”

For second homes, the hike could only be implemented from the financial year starting on April 1, 2025 and would mean another nearly 1,200 homes would fall under the criteria for a 100 per cent Council Tax premium.

Mid Suffolk leader Cllr Andrew Mellen, said: “If someone is fortunate enough to have a second home and they choose to leave it empty, we’re not compelling them to use it but we are asking them to contribute further to the community.”

The hike on second homes could net just over £2 million across both districts, with Babergh and Mid Suffolk getting £106,000 and £90,000 once the extra money had been shared with all other preceptors.

Cllr Carter added: “By owning multiple properties individuals have access to extra resources and services provided by their local council.

“Therefore, it is justified that they contribute a proportionate amount towards funding these services, as they are benefiting from them while potentially having access to similar services in their primary place of residence.”

Nevertheless, the Government has indicated some exceptions to both of the premiums would be put in place. Details were expected in the new year but this has been delayed.

Council guidance based on a previous consultation indicates exceptions could include properties actively marketed for sale or rent, currently undergoing probate, under major repairs, job related dwellings and more.

Further detail on these is expected before the start of the next financial year.