By Craig Smith
If you have had a property empty for whatever reason, you may know that a property can be exempt from council tax charges for up to 6 months, provided that it is unoccupied and unfurnished. This is known as a Class C exemption.
Under the Localism Act (which has also changed the way in which tenancy deposits are dealt with recently) the Government is planning to allow local authorities to charge almost whatever they like whilst the property is empty. In theory, the council could still allow an empty property to be exempt from the charges but, on the other hand, they could charge the full amount of council during that period.
Bad News for Landlords
Lets just put one thing into perspective here. Yes, sure, the local authorities could earn a little extra cash with the budgets being tighter than ever, but have they thought how this would actually affect homeowners?
It is not always possible for tenants to move out and in on the same day and it is not usually advisable especially if any work was needed between tenancies. A Landlord could find themselves not only out of pocket but in a financial mess if their property was empty for a month or two. Not only would they have no rent coming in to cover the mortgage, insurance etc but they would also have the expense of paying the council tax for a property they don’t even use!
The Knock-On Effect
If your not a Landlord yourself then you might think I’m being biased here but what about the knock-on effect on regular homeowners? For example, an elderly person moving into a care home might leave their home empty whilst they sell it, another expense to prevent them moving forward with their lives. Or how about someone relocating for work and needs to move away quickly?
And this is a Government that is trying to get the housing market back on an even keel?
Looking at this from the other side, most rental properties would hope to be empty for only a few days between tenancies which would mean that only a small amount of council tax would be due. Now, it is isn’t always easy to contact Landlords, particularly if the Council haven’t got the Landlords home address to address any billing. This would create a whole load of extra work for the Councils to chase outstanding amounts so all that money that could earn from empty properties could all be lost in chasing the debt!
Is This Really a Possibility or Just Scaremongering?
A consultation has already been held and 169 councils voted in favour of the extra charges and only 25 against so it is clearly obvious what the majority want. Unsurprisingly, the majority of Landlords are against the idea and quite rightly too!
I’m sure that this is by no means the last we will hear of this as we trundle towards the inevitability of the ever increasing costs of being a Landlord!