No More Council Tax Exemption For Landlords, Probably

It’s always a tragic day when the Government conjure up a new and exciting way of squeezing extra pennies out of us pawns to help drag them out of the barrel of shit they got themselves into. But they can always rely on us landlords, we’re more than happy to help, right?

While I try to stay away from blogging about current landlord news (because I prefer focusing more on me, myself, I, and my landlord life), I felt it was my duty to attach myself to my ghastly desk and moan a little about council tax, because unfortunately, I’ve quite severely plastered all over my website the joys of council tax exemption for landlords. What’s the problem, you ask. Well, that gravy train has “probably” come to an end, so I should update the record.

When council tax exemption existed

Way back in the golden days, during the pre April 2013 era, landlords were entitled to a beautiful thing known as Council Tax Exemption. Most landlords applied for the Class C Exemption, which meant landlords were entitled to an exemption for up to 6 months while their property remained vacant and unfurnished. Does it sound familiar? Good. You may as well toss it out of your memory banks.

The exemption made sense because it was particularly useful for that tricky stage in between tenancies, which usually lasts up to a week or two, and longer for landlords doing renovation work in between tenancies, which is also very common. Unfortunately, landlords will now most likely have to dig a little deeper into their pockets and pay for council tax during those periods. Very annoying.

I’ve been very smug and grateful for Council Tax Exemption for several years now, whether I had a property vacant for as little as 1 day or a few weeks. As one of my poncy little friends always says, “Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves”

For those who never knew about the exemption… well, you missed a trick. But there’s still opportunity to make some savings going forward, so listen up!

The new “Council Tax Support” Scheme

From 1st April 2013, the Government abolished council tax benefit, and has asked Local Authorities to replace it with a local scheme called “Council Tax Support”. Yeah, whatever. I despise how they attached the word “Scheme” to it, like it’s a new, positive groundbreaking new programme. It’s not.

From now on, local authorities are allowed to set discounted rates according to their individual budget requirements. Basically, this means they are able to charge whatever the hell they want (something already sounds very Government’ish about this), whether it be a complete exemption (which in theory is still possible), the full 100% council tax or anything in between. From what I’ve heard, there is no consistency between boroughs, and everyone is doing it prison-style, no rules. Some boroughs are actually offering a month’s grace before council tax is payable and others implementing it straight away. It’s all a bit pie in the sky. But making money seems to be the clear objective.

I personally wouldn’t count on the full exemption, but more of a discounted rate, and perhaps a grace period. A month’s grace period would suit me just fine, and should for most other landlords, because it shouldn’t take a landlord/agent longer than a month to find replacement tenants, unless they’re 1) a stupid-arse lazy bitch 2) trying to flog a deadhorse 3) doing major renovation work.

A problem with the new legislation, besides from the God awful added expense, is that it may cause confusion and extra work for landlords with mass portfolios that include properties spanning across different parts of the country. How much are they expected pay? Who knows. They’ll have to contact each borough and find out at the relevant time. Pretty ridiculous.

From what I understand, one of the main reasons for introducing this new scheme is to help minimise the thousands of empty properties in the UK. That’s fine, and I agree, but why not spend an extra 5 minutes designing a scheme that doesn’t fuck landlords over in between tenancies, innit? Unless, it actually is all about the money, and not so much the vacant properties. In that case, well designed scheme. Arseholes.

“Council Tax Support” tips
  • Contact your local council tax office
    If you know your property is going to be empty and unfurnished, contact your local council tax office and find out if you’re liable for council tax, and if so, enquire about any discounted rates/grace periods. They will also instruct you on how to get everything arranged. It usually involves completing a form and/or answering a few questions over the phone. Different councils, different rules.
  • Minimise vacant periods
    This should already be second nature to landlords, but in light of this added expense, there’s another reason to keep vacancy periods to a minimum. Keep your properties vacant for as little time as possible to keep your overall cost down, including your personal council tax fee.
  • Budget for council tax
    Many landlords automatically relied on Council Tax Exemption between tenancies, so they had no need to budget for paying those fees. With this new “Council Tax Support” in place, it is now important to budget for the extra cost. Keeping a property vacant for a month may cost £100 in council tax fees.

Has anyone been affected by the new “Council Tax Support” system? If so, did you get a grace period, discounted rate, or the full exemption? It might also be worth mentioning where the property is located.

79 Comments- join the conversation...

Showing 29 - 79 comments (out of 79)
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Michelle 26th September, 2013 @ 20:32

The other point that might be useful to landlords is that Durham CC tell me that if my tenant is on a fixed term AST when the tenancy ends they will accept that the tenant is liable for council tax to the end of the lease term.

However, if the tenancy has rolled on to a SPT the council claim that I am responsible for the council tax from whatever date the tenant decides to move out, even if that's not the end of the legal notice period and regardless of the fact that I could not legally regain possession of the house at that time.

I suspect the way to address this will be to stop using 6 month ASTs and move onto 2 year ones with break options. Need to research it a little more though.

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David Brittain 26th September, 2013 @ 21:32

All,

I have found a webpage that may be of interest:

http://www.valuationtribunal.gov.uk/A1Form.aspx

It seems there may be a way to appeal the council's decision if you don't agree with it. I shall be looking into this in a lot more detail tomorrow. The text says the following:

Council Tax Liability
You can appeal against the amount of council tax you have to pay and for any of the reasons below.

•You are not the liable person. In other words, you do not think that you should pay the council tax.
•The council refuses to accept that your property has been adapted to allow a disabled person to live there and is eligible for a reduction.
•You think that the council should give you a discount on the council tax you have to pay. You may get a discount if the property is empty, if only one person lives there or if one or more of the people in your home should be ignored for special reasons.
•You think your property is exempt from council tax (that is, council tax does not apply to it).

Before you start to appeal, please make sure you have done everything that you should. The first thing you should have done is to have written to your council explaining what the problem is. The council should have sent you a reply within two months.

If the council did not agree with you, or if you are not happy with what the council has done about the matter you raised, you can appeal to us. If you want to appeal, you must contact us within two months of the date of the council’s decision. Please send us a copy of the council’s decision with your appeal.

If the council has not written back to you within two months, you can appeal to us as long as not more than four months have passed since you wrote to the council in the first place.

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Barrie Mcdermid 26th September, 2013 @ 22:56

Michelle,

I've had the same query with Durham CountyCouncil as my tenant left without statutory notice being given. When I explained the situation along with proof of when I got the keys back (letter from the housing association the guy moved with) they just sent me a new bill which is due soon.

I think that another letter might be in order. If we're all as awkward as possible, they might find it's more hassle than it's worth and relent.

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wayne 3rd October, 2013 @ 06:38

can anyone comment if these new regulations apply to non-resident landlords (eg: expats living overseas). I have been granted tax exception for such conditions , I see no reason why this should not also apply for council tax too. Appreciate your views and advice on this.

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David Brittain 3rd October, 2013 @ 07:23

Wayne,

No idea I'm afraid, but I would assume not. You will no doubt get lumbered like the rest of us.

I have taken my argument with Durham CC to the Valuation Tribunal now and have a hearing scheduled for next January. I can appear to present my case in person or send in a written representation.

Its very easy to apply for this so I would urge everyone else to do this and they might then get the message that a number of us are very annoyed at this unfair situation which I see as blatant discrimination.

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Benji 3rd October, 2013 @ 07:30

@ David,
What grounds are you using for your appeal?

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David Brittain 3rd October, 2013 @ 08:27

I am appealing on two issues:

1) The fact that for two months after my tenant moved out, the place was empty, unfurnished and being repainted and repaired due to the actions of the previous tenant. It was uninhabitable basically, but I still had to pay 100% CT on it during this period. I think this is unfair.
2) The fact that I am being charged 100% CT on an empty property where nobody is using any of the council services but a single person gets a 25% discount (even when her kids and latest boyfriend were living there as well!) This is just bonkers and blatant discrimination.

I am not challenging the fact that I have to pay CT as I have grudgingly accepted that. Its the amount I am being asked to pay and the complete lack of any grace period for a property being made habitable again after pond life tenants have trashed it, while on housing benefit I would add, paid for by the council!

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Benji 3rd October, 2013 @ 09:23

@ David,

Well done for getting a hearing date.

However, the council will try to get your appeal struck out before it gets to a hearing. You need to make sure your reasons are valid. Because it is unfair is not a reason (unforunately).

Your first ground sounds insufficient. It needs to be major or structural work i.e no roof, windows, heating, water etc.

Your second ground will fail as the Valuation Tribunal have no power to decide on council policy. But you can be awarded it if you can prove that you lived there (alone) as your principal private residence while renovating it.

I have successfully claimed both grounds for rental properties.

Good luck.

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Peter 3rd October, 2013 @ 10:43

Hi,

My rant follows but in summary:

What is the legal stance? Do councils HAVE to give a certain period of grace OR is the change that has come in guidance from Central Government, i.e. is it discretionary on the part of the local council how they apply the charges in these circumstances?

Does anyone know the answer to this?

I find it interesting that you (Benji) believe an appeal based on whether it is unfair would be dismissed. Do you know this to be fact?

My understanding is that, under English law, an unreasonable clause written into a contract (& signed by both parties), can be overruled. I guess, this might come down to what the definition of unreasonable is in these circumstances and there is no contract, the powers that be have simply moved the goal posts.

I don't think it reasonable to pay CT on an empty property when I live in a different county & I am actively trying to sell it. I have been given 1 months grace.
It would be better to give owner of such property a little more time depending on the circumstances, i.e. if you are refurbishing after a tenant has vacated perhaps 3 months to tidy up and find a new tenant. I am trying to sell my property (which might take 6 months) as I've had enough of people trashing it then leaving and arguing about the deposit, going to appeal, waiting months and then the Independent Adjudicator (or cretin) who reviews it simply splits the deposit 50:50 (apparently I can spend two weeks cleaning and redecorating and my time cannot be claimed - off at a tangent but COME ON).

It appears that official policy is that all landlords are coining it so are fair game. I am going to appeal but am not optimistic

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Benji 3rd October, 2013 @ 13:14

@Peter

"Does anyone know the answer to this?"
Yes. It is from the Local Government Finance Act, they have the power to not give any exemption if they so wish. The only way to overturn that is by Judicial Review and I doubt you have big enough balls to take that on. You could try lobbying your landlord association to do so.

I find it interesting that you (Benji) believe an appeal based on whether it is unfair would be dismissed. Do you know this to be fact?

Yes. Whether you feel it is unfair or not is not grounds for a Valuation Tribunal appeal and it would be struck out. You need to have a valid reason. If enough landlords make valid appeals it may encourage councils to apply a reasonable policy for void periods. They have to review policy annually.

Instead of wasting your time ranting at me, find out who your local councillors are that made this bollocks decision and rant at them.

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Peter 3rd October, 2013 @ 20:35

Apologies Benji, it wasn't a personal attack, I simply asked if anyone actually knew the legal position and it seems you do.

From your comments there is little that can be done, terrific.

One final note, I've never had any complaints ;-)

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wayne 4th October, 2013 @ 06:25

interesting comments and it appears this all appears to be a local council decision rather than any concrete legal stipulations. I will drop the council a call today and try my luck.

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David Brittain 5th October, 2013 @ 12:30

Benji,

Thanks for your comments but I am still going ahead with my tribunal submission even if it is 'struck out' for not being valid. I am determined not to just bend over and take the Council's fat one from behind without making a bloody racket along the way and moaning to whomever I can.

This situation is just a disgrace and gives Councils the right to royally screw landlords unjustly, with absolutely no comeback. B******s!!!

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Angela Harvey 18th October, 2013 @ 15:44

If you can afford more than one house you can afford to pay council tax like the rest of us. Get over it and stop being so greedy.

If you can't afford it, sell one of your properties so that communities don't have empty properties floating about and destroying local communitees. I rarely support councils but in this instance, I do. I'm fed up with the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. Be grateful you have a roof over your head. Many don't.

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S.Green 18th October, 2013 @ 17:02

Angela it's nice to take a simplistic view,but empty property tax that was brought in by the Labour government has had strange consequences.
People and companies have knocked down buildings because they cant afford the tax there are whole businesses parks and residential properties that have been flattened .
Many landlords like to do big improvements in the empty periods and this improves the property for the next tenant.
These improvements may now get delayed or simply not done as the £100 per day + labor cost on top of the empty property tax and a mortgage is to much to bare.
In any case it's the tenant who will eventually bare the cost of this in higher rent, and who wants that?
If the landlord doesn't get 6% return whats the point?
"the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer"
See the point above,the tenant will be the one that bares the cost and that is of no help to anyone.
Just because someone owns more property than you doesn't make him/her rich,
most landlords have to pay two or three mortgages and are taking on far more risk than your average home owner and if that pays off they might become rich but if you take a wrong turn you may become bankrupt.
In my case I became wealthy by working very very hard,I was working before the age of 12 part time,7 days a week by the time I was 17,all hours of the day and night.Then I risked my own hard earned money on projects that could have ruined my finances.
I am sorry if you don't like it but many people become rich by working very very hard and being very careful with there earnings,and investing in higher risk investments.

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Barrie McDermid 18th October, 2013 @ 18:12

Angela, assuming you're not a troll, I liver in a smaller house than I could reasonably afford to, so I can make some provision for old age.

I'm sure if I came back with a simplistic view like "you're probably on benefits" or "you should have worked harder at school," you'd think I was being simplistic and judgemental.

I would thank you not to judge us without knowing our personal situations.

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David Brittain 18th October, 2013 @ 23:04

Angela,

Feel free to post if you so wish but I would advise you to find out a few real facts before you go off on an ignorant and ill informed rant against 'rich' landlords.

Take me for instance - self employed with no pension to speak of, I bought my one very modest place to give me something, hopefully, to provide some sort of nest egg in my later years.

Fast forward 6 years, I have lost c. £20,000 value in the property which has wiped out all my equity in it (read: life savings) and over the last 2 years I have had to deal with 2 pond life tenants who have abandoned it owing months of rent and leaving it in a disgusting state, meaning I have had to spend many hundreds on repairs/redecorating whilst earning nothing through rent and still having to pay a mortgage.

And STILL the council want to charge me 100% council tax on the empty place, as well as council tax I pay on where I actually live - and you think I am 'bleating', as I get 'rich'!!

Ha Ha!! Dream on.......

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S.Green 19th October, 2013 @ 11:24

Some good points mentioned,I forgot that I already pay my own council tax,then the 20% Vat on any maintenance on the property,then income tax.
This council tax is the one that comes directly off your profit.
I have worked out that 2 months empty property tax is 13.33% of my profit so this increases your income tax from 20% to 33.33%.
The trouble is the press make a song and dance about landlords making a fortune all the time and giving sub standard property, maybe in London they are making out like bandits and acting like ones,but the majority do not.
The truth is that Government has seen ordinary people doing ok with a couple of properties and wants more off them and the tenants.
Ideally government would prefer people to buy over priced property and give all there money to the banks for the next 20 years,when do you see people on the TV scalding banks for giving savers nothing and charging Borrowers plenty.
The banks make millions and millions of pounds out of the public,if it wasn't for there massive pay and bonuses at the top they would have never posted any losses.
But everyone's happy to pay the Bank and slate the Landlord,but the truth is the bank is the one making the most out of both!
You look at the deals Government has done with the builders,build to let,cash for deposits.
They like new build houses to let as it boost's the property industry.

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Neil 19th October, 2013 @ 12:25

Well said David and S.Green.

The thing that irks me the most is that a couple pay 100% council tax, a single occupant pays 75% council tax, but with an empty property you have to pay 100% from day one. There are lots of landlords who get stung by tenants who don't pay their rent and/or trash the place and how much support do we get trying to get our money back etc? None.
Surely a more sensible way to go about this would have been that the first month empty is free, the second month 25%, third month 50%, fourth month 75% and then onto full 100% tax after that. After all, none of us want our houses to be empty. And the money we now have to pay on council tax could have been spent on repainting or making general improvements - for the benefit of new tenants.
I for one will delay paying it for as long as possible. In the meantime I will be writing to our local Conservative MP, and the housing minister Mark Prisk.
I would love to know what the ruling is when your house gets flooded (as mine was in 2008) do they still expect us to pay 100% when it is totally uninhabitable through no fault of your own?
Oh, and Angela, piss off with your generalisations. I worked some long hard hours in extremely difficult circumstances for me to be able to afford the deposit on my property. It is my pension, and this new rule on council tax amounts to theft in my book.

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Brenda Hudson 21st October, 2013 @ 11:38

Leeds Council - no grace period and full council tax!

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martin 24th October, 2013 @ 20:43

Brenda I just got a bill from leeds city council as you say no grace and 100% council tax.I have sent emails to lcc and here is their response:

Dear mr ******

Many thanks for your email regarding the abolition of the empty homes discount.

I confirm that central government has changed Council Tax law relating to empty properties. Local councils can now decide whether discounts should be allowed for unoccupied properties that have been empty for less than six months, and unoccupied properties needing or undergoing major repairs or being structurally altered. Leeds City Council has decided not to allow any discount for these properties from 1 April 2013. This means that full Council Tax is due for these empty properties in accordance with the Local Government Finance Act (1992).

The decision has been made to help encourage owners of empty homes to bring them back into use, and recognises the significant challenge facing the council as a result of government financial reforms and funding cuts.

There is no right of appeal against the council’s decision. If you wish to take the matter further, the only option open to you is to apply to the High Court for a judicial review of the council’s decision on the grounds that it is unlawful or irrational. Any application to the High Court must be specific on the area of law or jurisdiction on which the appeal is made. It is not enough to simply say you disagree with it.

We did publicise the decision that was made, both before and after, on both our website and in local media and notice was included on bills sent in the months leading up to the change.

Should you have any further queries, please feel free to contact us by return email. Alternatively you can contact us on 0113 2224404.

Kirsten Whitehead

Customer Services

Leeds City Council

here is my response:

Dear mrs Whitehead,

you say the local council now decides on whether discounts should be allowed. You also say it is to encourage property owners of 'empty homes'to bring them back into use. I had a property empty for approximately 2 weeks and actively sought new tenants,and always do. I then received a bill for around £60. I don't believe the new system is fair because if the decision to charge is to 'encourage owners of empty homes to bring them back into use' then a fair system should give landlords/ owners a small amount of time to find new tenants without being charged.I would also like to know why I do not even receive a discount like a single person discount of 25%.I would like to know why the single person discount is in place.I would also like more information on how I can apply to the high court for a judicial review.

Kind regards,Martin.

I am awaiting their response.

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S. Green 25th October, 2013 @ 08:13

Now that we have to pay full rates on the property when empty I suppose we are entitled to full service including waste collection.
Does this mean skips are a thing of the past and we can call them up to collect the rubble and other carp?
I don't think you will win your battle as the government have decided that it is going to tap Landlords up for more money and that is just what they will do!

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Brenda Hudson 25th October, 2013 @ 09:21

Martin, well done for challenging them. They say that your arguement to to High Court has to be on the basis that it is unlawful or irrational. It seems irrational that some councils are giving a couple of weeks grace period and others none. Like other landlords have mentioned, how are you supposed to do any repairs/improvement/decorating/cleaning etc before the new tennant moves in. They also say that it was publised on the bills leading up to the change but as landlords we do not see the bills for the properties and I was definately not made aware. Like you, I received a bill in May for 3 weeks whilst the new tennant moved in. I have rental property in Bradford that I need to sell next year and am wondering if its best to move in myself whilst it is for sale and at least get the 25% sole occupancany discount and my husband claim the discount on our own home!

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sam 17th December, 2013 @ 20:01

I just loved this:

"While I try to stay away from blogging about current landlord news (because I prefer focusing more on me, myself and my landlord life)"

Didn't bother reading the rest about the thieving council F******S

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Mr Allen 6th January, 2014 @ 11:10

Just found this site whilst looking up info on paying council tax on empty property, and clearly there is a lot of opposition, rightly so.
Dear Landlord, can this site utilise this has a way to lobby changes in the bill.
Whilst I agree that properties shouldn't be left empty long term, the Government Act is not conducive to good business, could possibly end up causing poor repairs, bad housing and repossession s.
My main concern is that is discriminatory against private lanlords, and not being exercised the same throughout the local councils,
Amendments to the bill should consider;
A month standard grace period for finding new tenant, clean etc, extendable to 2 months for builders works,heating etc which are a Landlords legal responsibility,
At least match the single person discount on empty houses,given that full payment is based on 2 adults + sharing
charging over 100%, which in effect is a fine, only in exceptional circumstances.
additionally, when these proposals were in consultation stage, they included removing the exemption for properties that had been repossessed, are banking corporations paying the tax, like smaller landlords, as they should be, and also, importantly, are housing associations and indeed councils themselves paying charges on their empty properties. If they use this law surely it has to apply to all empty properties?
Landlord, how can we use your site to form a coalition against this discrimination?
I believe we could force changes. Cheers.

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J Smith 1st February, 2014 @ 09:18

To Angela Harvey

Your comments have infuriated me to write on here. How dare you make such a generalisation.

Durham County Council are chasing us for £438 in council tax because our last tenant left and we have not been able to rent it for 4 months, despite it being listed with three agents and on Gum Tree. The council were also supposed to list it as available to the various housing associations.

Your sweeping generalisation is that every landlord in the country is a fat cat rich person who can afford to pay anything local councils ask for. You should be ashamed of yourself for being so stereotypical and ignorant. Yes me and my wife work hard and have moved south for better jobs but she can't sell the house she bought prior to us meeting because a) the banks have ruined the economy, so that no one can afford to buy houses, b) the value is £20,000 less than when she bought it prior the financial crash.

Our only option is to rent it in order to cover 80% of the mortgage payment. When it is empty for four months, not only do we have to pay the mortgage but now councils ask us to pay full council tax.

Now tell me do you think that is fair, and will you now apologise for your ignorance?

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Barrie McDermid 1st February, 2014 @ 09:47

I wouldn't hold your breath mate, but I sympathise with your predicament.

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Phil 1st February, 2014 @ 10:06

Us lucky Rich landlords.
Yep I am very lucky and a quote (changed a little) from the great Gary Player is that with a 80 hour full time job on top my 20 years building a little portfolio "the harder I work....the luckier I get".
Some good practical reasons not to charge council tax eg discourages repairs etc. keep lobbying guys it's the right thing to do - but don't expect sympathy from many non-landlords or tenants.

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Laura 7th February, 2014 @ 12:10

Hi, can anyone help me / offer any advise. My tenants moved out of my house 1 month early, I was unaware of this, they still kept the keys, and paid their rent. However, they have taken my 1 month unoccupied property council tax relief. And although I didn't have the keys, and we still had a tenancy agreement, according to the council because they moved out (unknown to myself) and left the property supposedly empty they have received my 1 month council tax relief. Has anyone else experienced this. Surely this can't be right, as I couldn't let anyone else into the house to rent it out as the tenants had an agreement, and it was their choice to move out 1 month early. Also the property is still empty as I've had to do lots of work on the house as the tenants have made quite a mess of the house.

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DR BALOWSKI 14th February, 2014 @ 10:02

From Council

With effect from 1 April 2013, the Council will no longer be able to offer a discount or exemption on empty domestic dwellings. This is because the Councils finances no longer allow for these reductions to be granted. The decision to remove these reductions was part of a wider budget decision made by the Borough Council on 7 March 2013. In addition the Council will be applying a charge to properties that have been continuously empty for over 2 years. This will be called an 'Empty Property Premium'. The amount of the premium will be an additional 50% tax liability charge. Therefore, properties that have been continuously empty for 2 or more years will incur a 150% council tax charge.

so 1 person in 25% off
empty no discount

can anyone explain?

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Lorraine 25th February, 2014 @ 01:30

Here's one to consider when buying an empty property... We bought a repo house last year at auction and knew nothing of it's history and you can't find much out as the banks who are selling don't want to know you. The house was a complete wreck, needing total refurb, there was nothing in it that could be kept and was completely uninhabitable! Turns out the previous owner had died and the house had stood empty for 20 or so months before being sold... We've had to pay full c/tax from the purchase date and have just received a demand from Durham CC as they are now saying we should have been paying 150% but they made a mistake and forgot to ask for it, so they're backdating it! That's a new cost to factor in when looking at empty houses that are going to stand empty even longer while they're done up!

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Lorraine 25th February, 2014 @ 01:33

PS I notice it always says 'empty unfurnished house'... what happens if you put furniture in it? Would that then not qualify for the extra charges?

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Neil 25th February, 2014 @ 10:03

Lorraine, whilst I, and no doubt most others agree that this is scandalous, there isn't much we can do about it. I suggest emailing the new minister for housing, Kris Hopkins. The National Landlords associations seem to be very quiet on this issue.
It is enough to put people off buying up run down and derelict properties.

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434 28th March, 2014 @ 12:15

Martin – Did you get any information on how to apply to the high court for a judicial review?

Mr Allen – A coalition of private landlords on this matter sounds like a very good idea! How do we start?

When I initially complained to Durham County Council about having to pay 100% Council Tax on 3 of my properties (out of my small portfolio of 5), which are all in the same area and all became vacant at about the same time;, in addition to paying Council Tax on my permanent residence, I was told that they had implemented this rule to encourage property owners of 'empty homes' to bring them back into use. This rule has been in place for almost a year and there are now even more empty properties in Ferryhill than there were a year ago...can anyone tell me if this unreasonable charge, which directly discriminates against the small private landlord, applies to the housing associations too or is it, like the Selective Licensing fee, just a case of private landlords being stung?

Furthermore, the £millions given to DCC by the government as grant money to enable landlords to refurbish their empty properties has not only been turned into a loan by DCC but your property has to have been empty for 6 x months before you can even apply for a loan.

A property is no longer exempted from Council tax even if it is uninhabitable:
From 1 April 2013 the Class A and Class C exemptions (below) will be removed.
• Class A: Properties that require or are undergoing major repair work to make them habitable or undergoing structural alteration. These properties were previously exempt from paying Council Tax for one year.
• Class C: Properties that are empty and unfurnished, including new properties from the date of the completion. These properties were previously exempt from paying Council Tax for six months.
This means that from 1 April any property that is already unoccupied (furnished or unfurnished) or becomes unoccupied (furnished or unfurnished) will be subject to 100% Council Tax charge.
On the basis that Council Tax is charged to pay for the Police, Fire Authority and Council provisions such as refuse collection it is impossible that I could possibly be using 4 households worth of these facilities at the same time. Furthermore, when the tenants leave, owing rent, taking the keys and leaving the properties not only damaged but also filthy dirty, as they often do, I am not allowed to take their rubbish to the local recycling centre! I am supposed to take it to a commercial waste site where they will weigh the rubbish and then charge me for disposing of it… I don’t think so!!

In addition to the 100% Council Tax charges, I also have to pay the Council to remove larger items which tenants leave e.g. piddle ridden mattresses, broken televisions etc.,

As I am “living on-site” at one of my empty properties whilst I carry out the refurbishments, I presume that would be entitled to the 25% single occupancy discount – however this would mean that my normal residence would then be classed as a “second home” and I would therefore lose 15% of the single person occupancy discount there…

It seems that the only time Council Tax exemption would apply to my empty properties is if I am forced to declare myself bankrupt, which, the way things are currently going, is not beyond the realms of possibility.

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David 9th April, 2014 @ 07:44

Well it seems clear to me that the only way of resolving this is renting the property to a person called Mr Invisible, Mr Invisible is of European dissent and rented the property on a cash in hand situation. Sadly Mr Invisible stayed in the property for only a couple of weeks and then suddenly had to go back to his own home country without a forwarding address.
As an amazing coincidence Just after Mr Invisible left new full time tenants were found and put into the house.
Sadly Mr invisible has now gone and the local council will spend many months trying to trace Mr Invisible for his unpaid council tax, sadly he will never be found.

Happy days.

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434 15th May, 2014 @ 10:45

The fact that both Livin and Four Housing are allowed a 6 x month council tax exemption period whilst we are not is direct discrimination, against the private landlord. Aside from unfair,I believe that discrimination is illegal. A small group of private landlords have joined forces in an effort to have Durham County Council's decision, that we should pay 100% tax as soon as our properties become empty, repealed. United we stand - divided we fall. Would anyone like to join us?

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Barrie McDermid 15th May, 2014 @ 11:11

I most definitely would. Can you email me details to barrie underscore (the symbol not the word) mcdermid at (the symbol not the word - this prevents phishing emails in case you're wondering) hotmail dot com

Thanks

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Michelle 20th May, 2014 @ 09:45

Hi All,

I am not a landlord, just an owner of a property for the last 15 months which me and my partner are working on. It has needed major works doing to it and has obviously cost a lot so far. We are most definitely not rich and didn't expect it to be going on so long but, such is life, we have had a few unexpected expenses along the way. The whole time, I have been paying my council tax for this property with a 25% single person discount, as I am the owner and the property was bought with the intention of (eventually) making it my own home (my partner has his own flat). I recently contacted the council to ask whether I was entitled to any further discounts as the property was still undergoing works and was told that not only was I not entitled to any kind of discount at all (not even my 25% single person discount) but that they would be backdating my discount to April last year, adding an additional £200 to my bill for this year! My monthly payments have now increased to over £110 per month when I was already really struggling to meet the £80 previous bill! I have shot myself in the foot by trying to reduce my bill, it has been increased instead even though the notice I gave them was that I have been, and would still be, using a smaller proportion of their services as my property was not habitable at the moment.

I am not a landlord but this is affecting me too, I am just a normal working person currently renting and paying bills privately elsewhere whilst my property is being worked on, and yet I have no support or consideration from the council for this. I feel so angry, I pay all of my taxes already like everyone else and this situation has arisen due to me trying to actually become a home owner, something which we are continually told to do by this government!

I am at a loss as to what to do, I am waiting to hear back from the council as I emailed them explaining the situation nd that either way, my 25% discount is the least of what I should be entitled to but I have a feeling they will say I can't even have that. Does anyone have any suggestions of how to approach them with this? I wish I had never contacted them in the first place now, but if we don't then we are breaking the law for not keeping them informed, even if we know how unhelpful and money grabbing it will make them! It's a joke.

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Neil 20th May, 2014 @ 14:11

Michelle,

I would suggest contacting the minister for housing, Kris Hopkins, and tell him exactly how you feel.
To me, the people who should be paying are the people who own derelict, run down, unsightly empty properties but are doing nothing about fixing them up. I feel that if you are actively renovating, or between tenants, then due consideration should be made. Then again, I am not the minister for housing.

Neil

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Michelle 21st May, 2014 @ 12:09

Thank you Neil.

I have contacted him via his website and also directed him to this page to show him that this problem is affecting many people.

Let's see if we actually hear anything.

Michelle

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434 22nd May, 2014 @ 20:58

David - Mr Invisible is good idea but not allowed under the "Selective Licensing" rules implemented by DCC :(

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434 24th May, 2014 @ 20:20

NEWS FOR SMALL PRIVATE LANDLORDS.
Whilst EDF are presently providing the most competitive rates for energy supplies in the North East, I have been informed today that all pre-payment key meters located at above 6' and where you have to stand on something to insert the key have to be lowered, in accordance with the latest Heath and Safety Regulations. For "many", probably hundreds of thousands of older style, properties this is totally impractical as you wouldn't be able to open the front door...
Move to the side to stand on the stairs to insert the key is not allowed either.
The option is a credit meter which means bills for the tenant, regardless of their nature or limitations... anyone else aware of this?
And who in their right mind would locate a key meter at a height of 7' in the first place??

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434 28th May, 2014 @ 21:59

Barrie McDermid- Looking forward to your FB Page for private landlords within the DCC area. Ferryhill Residents Association Meeting MONDAY 2nd June, with DCC Councillors - ALL WELCOME to attend...

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Barrie 30th May, 2014 @ 10:08

I've just set up a Facebook group entitled landlordsNE (mainly for North East landlords) with this issue being one of the motivating factors.

Please all, feel free to join.

Regards

Barrie

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steve 13th July, 2014 @ 01:57

To get on the right side of council tax for the period in between simply cobble up another tenant which will 'sign' a 6 month contract obtained free from the rentfair website, then wala the liability transferred simple as thar. By the way only about 45% of renters actually pay council tax therefore its a losing battle for them. You will find that every multicultural landlord has been abusing this for the last decade. Well that's just England and Wales for you. My advice pack up and leave.

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123 12th August, 2014 @ 07:27

I empathise with David Britain and other landlords in relation to this unfair tax discretionarily set by the local council. Same for Havering:

1. My liability for an empty property due to need for redecoration between tenancies subject to 100% council tax.

2. No discount given even if I am I'm not living anywhere near the property and therefore not utilising the local services. Had I been living there as a single person, the reduction would be 25%!

The council's excuse is 'avoiding empty properties' is weak- as landlords, I belive we'd all prefer our properties to be occupied but we're not in the position to do so due to redecoration/ repairs etc. We provide an option for accomodation, right?

I've just spent a small fortune on redecorating/ cleaning/ bringing up to standard my property due to heavy wear and tear of tenants.

There is a preconception that landlords pocket's are lined with gold. OK, it is my second property but I moved away from this area simply due to my work situation.
In all, I'd like to appeal and feel aggrieved but as it'a a 'rule' set (even if inconsistently across the country), I feel my hands are tied.

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Phil 12th August, 2014 @ 07:41

The more rules/regs and charges....and the more I realise a change if strategy for me is due.
Massive shortage of affordable rents in our town, absolutely no DSS options for tenants and us landlords are in a great position. But this 100% charge is unfair.
I will sell slowly over next few years and begin to spend it - then this won't be an issue for me.
I will no longer be the 'wealthy landlord'. I can be the hard up 'saver' and get empathy for interest low rates, take no risk, provide no benefit for others.
Genuinely - and happy days too.

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Katie 12th August, 2014 @ 08:33

We have a month's grace in Portsmouth which is more than enough time to paint etc and find replacement tenants. I would agree that to charge 100% from Day 1 seems very unfair.

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434 12th August, 2014 @ 17:30

When implemented in April 2013, the excuse used by DCC for charging private landlords 100% council tax from day one on every empty property is "to encourage landlords not to have empty properties". However as there are more empty properties in the area where my houses are than there were a year ago, so clearly this hasn't worked... Furthermore, both the organisations Livin (providing council housing) and Four Housing (local housing association have a 6 months exception to council tax "because they are registered as charitable organisations". What really amazes me is DCCs ruling that despite being uninhabitable by environmental health standards, due to ineffective repairs by the "agent" I was using and destruction by the previous tenants, DCC have decided that a property can only be exempt if it literally has no roof! I'm sure that this was not the intention when central government handed power over to local councils!

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Lu Sellers 13th August, 2014 @ 14:03

I have read all of the comments in this blog. This is clearly a nightmare for all of us with empty property for whatever reason. I am a landlord & to hear again & again that empty property tax was introduced to either encourage landlords to sell or let out their properties is utterly ridiculous. It's just incredible how government justify these mind blowing money making decisions they make without any thought of how this massively impedes on society. NONE of us want empty properties, so encouragement to occupy or sell by way of taxation is absolute nonsense. None of us are just sitting around twiddling our fingers hoping someone is going to call us & ask if they can rent or buy our properties, surely! Are we to be taken for mindless individuals with no business sense. Bradford council however have informed me that the government has withdrawn financial support for councils & have now made the councils responsible for collecting in effect their own wages. That's why they've done what they have with empty property tax. Won a few battles over the years, many of them legal matters. Can we push this collectively in the right direction, get some support from Landlord Forums. Real life stories & the effects of this taxation need to be broadcast. It's wrong, unjust & in most cases unsustainable & if you can't afford it, well then they'll send the bailiffs round to your residential address with enforcement notices. Let's change that shall we.

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