The UK government has opened a consultation regarding plans to exclude landlords from paying council tax premiums on unoccupied properties whilst preparing them for tenancy or seeking new tenants. The move intends to bolster the current long-term empty homes premium, which would be applicable to properties left vacant and unfurnished for a minimum of one year, compared to the existing two-year period.
In addition, a new second homes premium is being introduced, providing councils with extra resources to manage the influence of secondary properties. However, properties actively marketed for rent will enjoy a six-month grace period from the start date or until the property is leased, under the new proposals.
Landlords would be required to provide evidence of reasonable pricing for their properties in the open market. The government also suggests a six-month tax exemption for homes undergoing significant renovations or structural alterations. If a landlord conducts major repairs and subsequently markets the rental property, a total exemption of up to 12 months may be available.
The consultation, which concludes on 31st August, explains: “The government believes that where owners are using their best endeavours to bring a property back into productive use, then they should not be penalised through the imposition of the long-term empty homes premium.”
The government acknowledges the complexities in determining whether a property owner’s efforts to sell or lease a dwelling are sincere. Nevertheless, it asserts these challenges should not negate additional protections for owners who are making positive efforts in line with the government’s initiative to repurpose vacant properties.