You have an empty home, so surely you don’t need to pay council tax? It’s a question that all landlords will need to deal with at some time or other. There are ways that you can be exempt from council tax – but is an empty home one of them?
Here we’ll answer that question while also taking a closer look at what council tax is, who has to pay it and who you’ll need to contact. By the end of this blog, you’ll have all the information you need.
What is Council Tax?
Council tax is a local tax that you need to pay for the services provided by the council. Every property in the council’s area will need to pay council tax unless it falls under a very narrow list of exemptions. The services that council tax covers include police service, fire brigade, libraries, rubbish collection, and much more.
Do Landlords Have to Pay Council Tax When a Property is Empty?
The bad news is that landlords almost always must pay council tax when a property is empty. However, there are some rare exemptions and ways that you can get a percentage off your bill, but these are unlikely to apply to you.
There is even further bad news. If your property is unfurnished and has been left vacant for a long time, you may be required to pay a surcharge for your council tax. This usually applies when your property has been empty for more than two years.
One possible exception is if your previous tenants have vacated the property but are still under contract to live there. In this scenario, they are still liable for paying the council tax. However, if they have been evicted or the tenancy has expired, you will be liable.
Almost all of the council tax exemptions apply to those living at a property, and not for a second home. For example, a homeowner who has received a prison sentence won’t be expected to pay council tax on their empty property.
One possible exemption that may be applicable for landlords is that council tax doesn’t need to be paid on a property that is unlivable. However, this doesn’t mean that it needs to be cleaned or the boiler needs to be fixed, for example.
A council will deem a property unlivable when it is derelict and in need of serious structural repair. Unless you recently had the worst tenants of all time, it’s very unlikely that your home will be viewed as derelict.
Contacting Your Local Council
It’s hard for us to give you exact advice on exemptions and discounts, as these rules change from one council to the next. There are no national laws regarding when exemptions can be given for council tax.
Due to this, it can be a good idea to contact your local council. They can give more exact rules, and you can query with them if you can save any money on your council tax bill. However, it’s unlikely that they’ll be very helpful in terms of exemptions and discounts.
They will also advise on rules in that area. We mentioned above that councils will often apply a surcharge for unfurnished properties that have been empty for a long time. Exactly how long and what the extra charges will be depends on the council.
For example, many will apply a 25% surcharge on a property if it has been empty for more than two years. This can often rise to 100% if it’s been over ten years. This is an example of why it can be a good idea to get clarity from your council. To make life easier, most councils do have all this information on their website.
Examples of Council Tax Exemptions
There are several exemptions for council tax, but, as we mentioned, these exact rules can change from one council to the next. Let’s take a look at some exemption examples:
Prison – As per our example above, prisoners don’t need to pay council tax on their homes if they are the sole occupant. If they were living with someone, then their partner would receive a discount on their tax.
Death of Owner – If you’ve very recently acquired property through inheritance, you won’t be liable for council tax until at least probate. Many councils will also offer six months’ grace after probate if the property stays unoccupied.
Care Home – If the occupants of the property are no longer capable of living there due to ill health, then no council tax will be due. If someone else occupied this property in the meantime, they would be liable.
Other exemptions may be made for the likes of disabled people, religious leaders, foster carers, apprenticeships, and religious leaders. Each council will have their own list of exemptions and discounts. Someone exempt in one area may not be exempt in another.
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