On 30 November and 7 December 2021 respectively, Mole Valley District Council’s (MVDC) Cabinet and Council will consider a report that recommends changes to existing policies concerning Council Tax for long-term empty properties in the district.
It is important that we have as many properties as possible in Mole Valley that are being used for people to live in. Houses that are sitting empty mean that there is increased demand for housing. By bringing empty properties back into use, it helps to meet demands for housing and mitigates the need for new homes to be build. There are 122 properties that have been empty in the district for over two years.
In order to help local authorities bring empty properties back into use, the Long Term Empty Homes Premium was established nationally in 2012. Currently, the maximum long-term empty homes premium permitted on properties that have been empty for more than two years is 100%, effectively doubling the amount of Council Tax an owner in the UK has to pay. The premium is set at 300% for properties that have been empty for more than ten years. It is the role of individual Local Authorities to set the rate of Long Term Empty Homes Premium that applies in its area.
In 2020, MVDC agreed that a premium of 100% be applied to all properties that had been empty for two or more years. It is being recommended to Cabinet and Council that not only is the premium increased from 100% to 150% for properties in the district that have been empty for between two and ten years, but that a 300% premium be introduced for properties that have been empty for ten years or more. This increase would align rates with the maximum national allowance.
MVDC offers more than 15 different discounts on Council Tax. It is also recommended that MVDC no longer offers one of those discounts; the Council Tax exemption, currently in place for owners of properties that are empty for 28 days. There is no requirement at a national level for Local Authorities to offer this discount and, while MVDC has done for a number of years, no longer doing so will bring it in line with a number of other Surrey district and borough councils.
Councillor Bridget Kendrick, Cabinet Member for Finance, said: “There is a clear demand for housing in Mole Valley and it is important that we make the best possible use of all of our existing housing stock. We have to tackle the fact that there are well over 100 homes in the district that have been empty for between two and ten years.
“We recognise that there are a number of situations whereby a property could remain empty and the Empty Homes Premium not apply, for example when people are living in care homes or work for military. However, we need to take a harder line with owners that don’t have a valid reason for keeping properties unoccupied. Maximising housing opportunities not only mitigates the requirement for new build in the district but also forms new communities and improves the quality of the local environment.
“We anticipate that increasing the empty homes premiums in Mole Valley to match the maximum allowance allowed nationally will make a real difference and make owners think twice.”