Council tax crackdown on long-term empty homes from 1 April – how much more will you pay?

If you have a second property left empty for 12 months, you could face a double council tax charge from April

Council tax for second home
(Image credit: Getty Images)

New rules set by the UK Government mean that homeowners will be charged premium council tax on long-term empty properties from 1 April, thinning the timeframe from two years to just one.

This will come as a blow to households, who already face an above-inflation rise in council tax bills which could rise by as much as 5% this spring, high mortgage rates and broadband and mobile bill hikes

Local councils will be allowed to introduce this latest tax charge on second homes from the start of the new 2024/25 financial year, in an effort to bring more affordable housing to cash-strapped households. 

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We look at what this means for homeowners, whether this affects you and how much more you can expect to pay. 

Long-term empty homes set to face council tax crackdown  

Homeowners who have a spare property lying empty for 12 months could be facing a hefty tax charge from 1 April, the UK Government has announced. 

This comes as the latest doubling down on benefits despite the chancellor announcing a national insurance cut and several tax reforms in the Spring Budget announcement on 6 March

Until today (12 March) the premium was only for homes that have been left empty for 24 months, but it has now been tightened to accommodate local people who are struggling with housing due to the cost of living squeeze, despite latest figures suggesting falling inflation

The penalty is bound to hit property owners as it comes after a series of reforms such as clampdowns on short-term letting and higher capital gains tax. Local authorities will have the power to spend 100% of the surcharge from the 2025-26 fiscal period.

Timothy Douglas of Propertymark, a trade body for estate agents, said, “Whilst we welcome the focus from the UK Government on cracking down on long term empty homes, it would be more effective to introduce a dedicated grant scheme alongside other incentives such as interest-free loans and a first-time buyer’s grant to support people to bring empty property back into use, rather than penalising them through higher council tax premiums until they do so.”

How much will my council tax go up?

Council tax is set to go up by 5% for English households for the coming financial year, The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) confirmed in February.

This includes a maximum 3% rise for core council tax, plus another 2% if the council has adult social care responsibilities. For an average Band D household, this means that annual bills will go up by £103, or £2,168. 

Some bankrupt authorities will be given an extra allowance of raking up their council tax charges by 10%. This includes four English authorities, such as Slough Borough Council, Thurrock Council, Woking Borough Council and Birmingham City Council. 

It’s worth checking your council tax band to get a better estimate of how much you will need to pay. 

Will this change affect me?

Though most homeowners may be forced to fork out a big chunk of money for this change, you could be exempt under a few conditions set out by The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities

This is if your home is empty because of renovation purposes, if it cannot be used all year round due to planning limitations, or if you inherited the property after a family member’s death, to support families in their grieving period. 

How can I get a council tax discount on my second home?

Earlier there used to be council tax reliefs available on second homes, but that has now fallen out of favour among local councils, with very few or none offering reductions.

Some other homes that only have to pay service charges but no council tax include a mooring with a boat or a static caravan in a holiday park. Those who own an annexe might qualify for a council tax reduction of up to 50%, or a full rebate if you have any family members with disabilities. 

To have an exact rundown of how much you may need to pay or what kind of discounts you can get, the best way to find out is to contact your local council.

Oojal Dhanjal

Oojal has a background in consumer journalism and is interested in helping people make the most of their money.
Before joining MoneyWeek, she worked for Look After My Bills, a personal finance website where she covered guides on household bills and money-saving deals.
Her bylines can be found on Newsquest, Voice Wales, DIVA and Sony Music and she has explored subjects ranging from luxury real estate to the cost of living, politics and LGBTQIA+ issues.
Outside of work, Oojal enjoys travelling, going to the movies and learning Spanish with a little green owl.