Dales residents back plans to charge owners of long-term empty homes higher council tax rates

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Members of the public have thrown their weight behind plans to charge owners of long-term empty homes in the Derbyshire Dales double, triple and quadruple council tax.

In July, members of Derbyshire Dales District Council voted unanimously to push ahead with plans to charge higher rates of council tax to owners of empty homes.

This would be subject to public consultation on the issue.

Initially, the district council would look at charging owners of homes which have been empty for two or more years double tax.

This was seen as a way to bring in much-needed cash for the council; to penalise the relevant owners; and free up more houses for those looking to jump onto the housing market.

In total, 227 people responded to the consultation.

Of these, 70 per cent agreed with plans to charge double council tax for homes which had been left empty for two or more years.

On top of this, 74 per cent approved of plans to charge triple council tax for homes empty for five to 10 years, and quadruple council tax for owners of homes left empty for 10 or more years.

Now the council is looking to solidify its decision, supported by resounding public approval, at a meeting on Tuesday, December 5.

If approved again, the double council tax charge would come into force on April 1, 2019.

Further guidance from the government would be sought to approve the triple and quadruple charges.

However, the Rating (Property in Common Occupation) and Council Tax (Empty Dwellings) Bill became law on November 1 this year after being approved by central government.

It allows councils to charge the increases in council tax being discussed by Derbyshire Dales councillors.

It is thought that the treble charge would able to be brought in from April 1, 2020 and the quadruple charge from April 1, 2021.

The move towards this began in 2013 with an additional 50 per cent premium.

Central government states that there are 200,000 empty homes in England.

There are nearly 650 long-term empty homes in the Derbyshire Dales.

Some 500 of these have been empty for more than six months and 214 for more than two years.

A report on the issue calls these homes a “wasted resource”.

District councillors dubbed this a “blatant tragedy” and an “absolute disgrace” at a meeting in July.

The money raised from the additional tax would be distributed among all of the authorities to which council tax is returned to: the district council, county council, police and fire service.

It is thought that the tax could bring in £433,415 next year if all empty homes remain empty.

If all empty homes remain empty up until 2029, the levies could raise £2.3 million.

However, officers predict that the number of empty homes will decrease by 10 per cent each year.

This would see the amount brought in each year fluctuate, with a predicted high of £990,000 in 2023.

The authority has not specified how this extra money would be spent but has said that it could support “vital services” at the district and county councils, and the police and fire services.

When an owner persistently leaves a property empty, if it is in a poor condition or in an area of high housing need, the district council may take out a compulsory purchase order, if the owner has resisted all voluntary attempts to bring the property back into use.

It can also take out an empty dwelling management order.

This allows councils to take over the management of residential properties, where an owner of an empty property has turned down offers of help to bring the property back into use, and can offer no good reason why the property should remain empty.

Eddie Bisknell , Local Democracy Reporting Service