New legislation on empty homes debated

by Gary Whittaker

Parliament has proposed new legislation that is designed to cut the number of homes left empty around the country, a measure that could have a range of impacts for landlords.

The Rating (Property in Common Occupation) and Council Tax (Empty Dwellings) Bill had its second reading this week, with the proposed legislation set to give councils the right to charge double the rate of council tax on homes left empty for more than two years. At present they can only charge a 50 per cent premium.

Landlords who have purchased a property that is in working order but have not let it out could be affected by the legislation, which means the choice they face is likely to be either that of making arrangements to rent the home out or to sell it. In turn, landlords keen to invest may find many of these properties provide investment opportunities once the legislation is in place. 

Speaking about the legislation, local government minister Rishi Sunak said: "While we should celebrate the number of long-term empty homes dropping by a third since 2010, there are still 200,000 vacant properties across the country.

"This bill hands councils further tools to bring much-needed homes back into use and provide thousands of families with a place to call home."

Although the highest number of empty homes in England was 318,000 in 2004 and has subsequently plunged, the tally did rise last year. In October 2017 it was 205,000, up 5,000 from 12 months earlier. 

Dealing with these issues was a major focus of housing policy for the coalition government, which introduced a range of schemes including funding for projects to bring empty homes back into use where properties were in a poor state of repair. 

The rules allowing a 50 per cent council tax premium to be levied were among the measures implemented, with this legislation coming into effect in 2013. 

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23-April-18Legal News