Should I pay council tax on an empty property?

Council tax can be a confusing matter at the best of times, with many property owners struggling to work out which band their property falls into, making it hard to predict likely payments. When trying to determine whether the property you own or rent out is eligible for a discount or exemption, it can become trickier still. However, even if the home you own is empty and unfurnished you will still be required to pay council tax, although your local council may grant you a discount. Below is a comprehensive guide to the most common empty property and council tax queries.

The most important thing to remember is that it is ultimately up to your local council to decide what your council tax liability is. Since councils vary in their approach to empty property and council tax, it is vital to contact your council directly to ensure that you pay the correct amount. In some cases councils can actually charge extra council tax for empty properties.

Council tax on second homes

If you are the owner of a second home or a holiday home, then you may be eligible to pay less council tax if it is not your main dwelling. Councils can provide a discount of up to 50% but eligibility is down to each council’s discretion. You will need to contact your local council to find out whether you can benefit from this discount.

Council tax on empty properties

In the majority of cases councils will expect you to pay council tax on an empty property. However, some offer a discount which is subject to no minimum or maximum amount – it is once again up to the individual council’s discretion. A council may also charge up to 50% extra council tax should your property stand empty for over two years. It is worth mentioning that rules regarding empty properties are different in Scotland.

There are some instances that automatically exempt you from paying council tax. The first of these is if you are selling a home on behalf of someone who has died. In this instance you will be liable to start paying council tax six months after you receive a probate.

In addition there are some properties that are exempt from any council tax for as long as they remain vacant. These include homes that have been repossessed, homes belonging to someone who has moved into a care home or hospital, homes belonging to someone who is in prison (unless it is for not paying council tax), lawfully uninhabitable properties, and properties that are empty due to compulsory purchase for demolition purposes.

There is a further possibility of a council tax discount if the property is undergoing major repair or structural changes, such as the building of an extension. Your local council will typically inform you of the date from which you must start making council tax payments if your home has been undergoing major improvements or if you are building a new property. This will come in the form of a ‘completion notice’. If you are renting out your property it is always worth considering taking out a landlord insurance policy, so that you are protected should anything go wrong since a vacant property or a property undergoing renovation is more vulnerable than an occupied one.

There are also some provisions for derelict properties. A property is only considered derelict if it isn’t at all habitable (this can be due to any kind of extensive damage), or if it requires major structural improvement to make it ‘wind and watertight’ for habitation.

Local councils vary considerably in their approach to paying council tax on vacant properties. It is therefore always worth calling your local council, armed with relevant documentation and dates, to confirm the extent of your liability.

For more information read the Government guidelines on council tax for second homes and empty properties.

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