New Empty Home Council Tax Laws: April 2024 Updates

Council tax bills for property investors with long-term empty homes will double from April 1 2024.

The government wants more affordable homes and will target investment properties idle for 12 months or more.

The new law reduces the time a home can stand unoccupied from the current 24 months to 12 months without triggering a council tax penalty.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities confirmed the new rules will not apply in some cases, such as:

  • Homes that are uninhabitable during renovations
  • Second homes that are only available for part of the year due to planning restrictions
  • A 12-month exemption for inherited homes so grieving families are not unfairly taxed

Local Government Minister Simon Hoare said: “Long-term empty properties are shutting local families and young people out of the housing market as they are being denied the opportunity to rent or buy in their community.

Planning permission

“So, we are taking action as part of our long-term plan for housing. That means delivering more of the right homes in the right places and giving councils more powers to help give local people the homes they need.”

A separate new law is also on the way that enables councils to charge a council tax premium of up to 300 per cent on second homes that are not unoccupied for 12 months but are only used occasionally or rented out as short-term holiday lets.

The minister explained the measures are part of reforms to help councils control the number of short-term lets in their areas by making them subject to planning permission.

Existing short-term lets will transition with planning permission automatically, but new second homes or holiday lets will need planning permission from April 2025.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt also revealed that his Budget 2024 announcement reducing the top rate of capital gains tax on property from 28 to 24 per cent was part of a broader initiative to persuade property investors to sell their homes.

Unoccupied home FAQ

What is an unoccupied property?

An unoccupied property is furnished, although no one lives there, while a vacant property is unfurnished.

What is the council tax penalty for unoccupied homes?

Property owners will be charged a council tax premium at double the standard rate from April 1, 2024, if the home has been unoccupied for 12 months.

How many homes are empty?

On the last census day (March 21, 2021), the Office for National Statistics said England listed 1.5 million unoccupied homes, while Wales had 120,450. This is 6.1 per cent of all homes in England and 8.2 per cent in Wales. The ONS estimates that in England, 10.3 per cent were second homes, while 14.6 per cent were second homes in Wales.

ONS second homes statistics

When does the reduced CGT rate start?

On April 6, 2024, the property capital gains tax top rate will be reduced from 28 to 24 per cent.

Do I pay premium rates while refurbishing a home?

If the work renders the property uninhabitable, no premium council tax is due if the property has been unoccupied for 12 months.

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