This blog answers the question “Should I Pay Council Tax on an empty property?” It looks at the different rates of tax on empty property and how to apply for an exemption when you qualify for it. The blog also mentions the liability of council tax in unforeseeable situations such as the death of the property owner or destruction of the house by fire or flood. 

Should I Pay Council Tax On An Empty Property?

Yes, council tax has to be paid on empty land. In fact for land left empty for a period of 2 years or more an extra tax of 100% is charged. For 5 years or more of being left vacant, the additional premium rises to 300%. So very high rates of council tax are levied on vacant property and the longer it stays that way the more tax revenue is accumulated. 

The value of council tax is initially calculated based on the land it is built on and this is then multiplied by 2,4 or even 10 times for empty property.

You can get away without paying tax on your second residence by advertising the property as available for rent for tourists at least for a period of 5 months a year.

Also if your property is being refurbished for a maximum period of 12 months you can avoid council tax on the vacant land. Even if you continue to pay council tax on your empty property, your council will begin to investigate the reasons behind its vacancy after 6 months. Beyond 6 months it will attempt to  discuss the matter with you. If you refuse to cooperate or offer a plan for bringing the property into use the council will obtain legal orders from the court such as issuing an interim Empty Dwelling Order or a Compulsory Purchase Order.

Is there a council tax exemption for a person who has died and was the only one living on the property?

Yes, the property is exempt from council tax for as long as it remains unoccupied following the death of the owner. Following the granting of probate, another 6-month exemption is possible as long as the property remains unoccupied and has not been sold to someone else

Executors must inform council tax about:

  • The date the probate is granted
  • The details of the transfer of the property or the ending date of the tenancy
  • Whether the estate is settled.

I owned 5 residences and 2 of my secondary residences which were empty have been severely damaged by forest fires. Can I get any reduction on my council tax bill?

Yes, council tax benefits in case of exceptional circumstances (which threaten the taxpayer’s ability to pay tax) are allocated per property. For each individual case of fire damage, you will need to submit evidence of the efforts you have undertaken to repair the damage and the costs incurred herein which includes:

  • Photographs and extent of the repairs
  • An estimate of the repair costs needed
  • Surveyor’s reports
  • Invoices of work carried out

This evaluation is undertaken to be submitted to the Valuation Office Agency which will change the rateable value of your property (band) based on appropriate evidence. The rateable value is the rental value of the property if it was rented out at the standard valuation date on the basis that the tenant will cover the cost of all the repairs.

This exception of altering the rateable value based on the property being in a state of disrepair only applies if:

  • The property is in such a state of damage that any reasonable homeowner would consider the costs of renovation uneconomic
  • The property is in such a state of ruin that any reasonable homeowner would only repair it partially
  • The property has been so badly devastated by a fire that there is no way that it can be economically renovated or used again

After this option is explored and the property’s council tax payments cannot be covered, a Section 13A discount can be applied.

Individual applications for this Section 13 A Discount must demonstrate:

  • That this application for a Section 13A discount is undertaken as a last resort and that any Valuation Office Agency application for changing tax band category and other council tax reduction or exemption entitlements have been considered.
  • The unforeseen exceptional circumstances on which this application is based and provide appropriate evidence, reports, photographs or repairs, and invoices of work carried out on the property. The detailed proof of the devastation from the fire to the home and the costliness of the repairs needed must be mentioned.
  • Demonstrate to council tax that the council tax arrears are not a result of the deliberate nonpayment or failure to make payments on time in the past. The current council tax arrears should directly have accumulated as a result of *fixing)the fire damage to the owned properties,

The evidence documents that must be provided to prove these conditions include:

  • Documentation evidence to support the unforeseen circumstances of the fire faced by the taxpayer and how they increased his expenses through repair costs and liabilities of owning a property gutted by fire.
  • Evidence of documents that show that all other tax reduction benefits and an attempt to change the rateable value of the property through the VOA have been considered thoroughly
  • An Income and Expenditure Statement of the owner
  • Documents to verify the evidence provided on income and expenditure statements (especially the expenses on repairs)

Your council tax bill for the month will be based on the value of your property in its respective council tax band, not on the number of occupants. 

What is the council tax liability for executors?

The executors or heirs of the deceased person are responsible for dealing with the estate left behind. They can get an exemption (class F exemption) from paying council tax on the empty property. Executors also have the authority to put up the property they are handling up for sale.

The executor must keep council tax updated on the date when the probate is granted, the date when furniture is removed from the property, and the date when the property is transferred.

If the beneficiary becomes the owner of the property then he’/she is liable to pay full council tax.

Which legal powers does my Local Housing Authority have to make me bring my empty property back into use?

Your Local Housing Authority has the following legal powers to make you bring your empty property back into use:

  • A Compulsory Purchase Order can be issued to bring the land back into use without its landlord’s consent. Compulsory Purchase Orders follow provisions set out in the Acquisition of Land Act 1981. It is intended as a last resort after Local Housing Authorities have exhausted all options of obtaining the land by agreement.

           Once the acquiring authority has taken control of the land, it will sell or lease it to one of Homes England’s official partners for the Strategic Homes Programme 2021-26.

  • Your empty property (left vacant at bankruptcy) may be sold off to recover your unpaid debts. These debts may be mortgage debts, council tax debts, credit card debt or bank loan debt. 
  • Other government orders can be issued to get hold of your property  such as in case of a breach of planning control a Planning Contravention Notice, a Breach of Condition Notice, a Planning Enforcement order or a Temporary Stop Notice is used to make the landlord comply.
  • An “interim EDMO” or Empty Dwelling Management order can be served on the vacant property if the Residential Property Tribunal feels that such a threat will be able to persuade the homeowner to promptly bring their land into residential use. 

The interim EDMO will be followed by a final EDMO, which has more wide ranging powers to forcibly get hold of the property, and also contains a management scheme to carry out the envisaged occupation plans for the dwelling.

How is the housing tax calculated for my second residence?

The housing tax is calculated for the whole year according to your situation on 1 January.

It is calculated, as for your main residence, according to the rateable value of the dwelling and its outbuildings, by applying the rates voted by the local authorities.

Secondary residences do not benefit from any reduction and are charged 100% council tax. If the secondary residence is left empty, it will be charged twice and even four times the amount of council tax due for a year following a period of 2 years of being abandoned in that condition.

You can ask to be exempted from paying council tax on secondary residences, in the following 3 cases:

  • You are forced, because of your professional activity, to reside in a place different from that of your main residence
  • You retain exclusive use of the home that was your main residence before being permanently housed in a care facility
  • You cannot assign the accommodation to a main residential use for a cause beyond your control (for example accommodation to be the subject of work as part of a town planning operation). 

Or the property has been declared uninhabitable by the VOA because its structure has been damaged by fire or flood. In this condition, the land’s council tax band needs to be assessed because it cannot be charged at the previous rate.

This request must be made to HMRC or the local council of your secondary residence.

Conclusion

This blog post addressed the question “Should I Pay Council Tax On An Empty Property?” Council tax must be paid on a property that is left empty for no reason or is a second residence and unoccupied for most of the year. A property can only be left vacant for a period of 6 months beyond which the council will attempt to use a Compulsory Purchase Order or an interim Empty Dwelling Management order to reoccupy your empty dwelling.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Should I Pay Council Tax On An Empty Property?

What if my property is unoccupied because it is uninhabitable, or because I’m making structural alterations to it?

Such a property has its tax payment reduced by 50% and this council tax will be payable for a period of 12 months. The structural alterations or repairs being done to it include :

  • Structural or major repair to the roof
  • Structural fixing of the supporting walls
  • Having to remove the ceilings
  • Ripping down the house’s entire interior to the studs may include demolishing the kitchen, bathroom, etc

If the land is still uninhabitable because structural alterations are being made to it you will be sent a notice for the full council tax. And further still if the property is unoccupied and unfurnished for another 2 years the council tax will increase to 150% of its value 

What if the property has been left unoccupied by a bankrupt person?

An empty property is exempt indefinitely from council tax when the liable person has been made bankrupt. In this case, the tax liability will now fall on the bankrupt person’s trustee so council tax is not collected.

What if the property is unoccupied and could only be occupied by a minister of religion?

If a property is left empty so that it can be made available to carry out the religious services of a minister of religion, it is exempt from council tax. There is no need to prove proof of ownership of the property or when it was last in use by the minister of religion.

Citations

Council Tax charges for empty properties

Council tax on second homes and empty properties

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