LANDLORDS will have to pay the full rate of council tax on vacant properties and those being refurbished if a new rates regime is adopted.
The abolition of exemptions and discounts from April 1 next year would see second homes lose their 10 per cent discount while people possessing ‘empty dwellings undergoing major repair’ will no longer benefit from a 12-month amnesty and owners of empty properties from a six-month amnesty.
Labour-run Harrow Council’s cabinet decided on Thursday last week to recommend full council approves the plans, which would raise an additional £1.1million a year, of which the council expects to keep £620,000 after having to send a proportion to the Greater London Authority, the fire authority and the police.
However, none of the changes were supported by respondents to the consultation, largely comprised of the landlords and housing associations who would shoulder the additional cost.
One said: “We own more than 30 properties in the Harrow and Brent area. The majority of these properties have been refurbished with empty property or better homes grants. These are very marginal investments.
“Imposing council tax during void periods and applying council tax during refurbishment works will tip the scales and we will not be investing in any further property to rent to housing benefit tenants.”
Another suggested landlords would increase their rent to cover the costs incurred during void periods, thus affecting tenants.
Councillor Sachin Shah (Labour), portfolio holder for finance, told the meeting: “It will make the system fairer, bring more empty properties back into use, raise money to help fund services for those most in need, and help to reduce crime and disorder.”
The council also intends to impose an ‘empty home premium’ on properties that have been unfurnished and unoccupied for at least two years in order to encourage landlords to get their property back on the market.
This would be in the form of a 50 per cent surcharge on council tax, equating to an extra £1,493.27 a year based on the dearest Band H property.