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'Unacceptable' empty homes set for council tax rises

Cabinet councillors last night (December 13) recommended that owners of long-term empty properties in Eastbourne will have to pay council tax premiums of up to 300% from April 2024.

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Premiums would begin at 100% for homes that are unoccupied and substantially unfurnished between 1 and 5 years of becoming empty, 200% for between 5 and 10 years, and 300% for more than 10 years of becoming empty.

Currently, these empty homes are all subject to a 50% premium.

At today's Cabinet meeting, councillors also agreed - subject to Full Council - that second home owners will have to pay twice as much council tax from April 2025, when a 100% premium will come into force on properties that are nobody's main residence and are substantially furnished.

These proposed changes are in line with the majority of councils across the country and follow the introduction of new rules by government that allow local authorities to set higher council tax premiums on empty and second homes.

In Eastbourne, there are currently 281 homes standing long-term empty and 781 properties being used as a second home.

Councillor Robin Maxted, Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources, said: "It is unacceptable that homes are standing empty in Eastbourne at a time of housing crisis when levels of homelessness are rapidly rising and there are soaring numbers of people being placed in temporary accommodation.

"Empty homes also blight neighbourhoods and attract antisocial behaviour and crime.  

"These changes are intended to discourage homeowners from leaving properties empty for no valid reason and encourage existing owners of empty homes to bring them back into use as main residences, helping to relieve the pressures of homelessness within our town. 

"We also hope, as a result of these measures, that landlords of rented homes work towards a swift turnaround between tenancies and the number of properties being solely used as second homes are reduced - these quite often remain vacant for the majority of the time, which has the same negative impact as long-term empty homes."

Under the changes, the existing 50% discount on council tax for up to a year on empty homes that are undergoing structural repairs would be abolished from April 2024, as would the one month discount of 100% on unoccupied homes that are substantially unfurnished.

Cabinet's recommendations will be decided upon at the next Full Council meeting.

Published on December 14, 2023.

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