How To Avoid Paying Council Tax On Empty Property

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Council tax on empty property

How To Avoid Paying Council Tax On Empty Property

The rules for paying council tax on empty property are complex but there are some circumstances where you may be exempt from paying the fee or may qualify for reduced rates.

Council Tax is a fee paid annually to your council and is used towards funding public services in the local catchment area. These services cover essentials like collection of rubbish, street lighting, road repairs and libraries.

Some people are exempt from paying council tax but for the most part every property whether occupied or not must pay all or part of the amount due. Council Tax is usually paid over a period of 10 months.

Image of an empty house in England

Is Council Tax Payable On Empty Property When Someone Dies?

When someone dies and the property is empty there is an exemption from paying council tax until probate has been granted or until someone else moves in.

After probate has been granted, i.e. when an executor has been given the right to deal with the affairs of the deceased, there is a further 6 months exemption if the property stays empty. After the 6 months is up, council tax will be payable by the executor.

Once the title of the property has been transferred to the beneficiary of a will that person becomes responsible for paying council tax.

Is There A Reduction Of Council Tax On Empty Property?

The rules for empty properties including second homes vary in different council areas.

In the past all empty properties were allowed an exemption of council tax for 6 months but after April 1st 2013 the law changed and empty properties were granted between 0% and 100% discount depending on the discretion of the individual councils.

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Photo of an empty property which may be exempt from council tax
It may be the case that you can get a council tax exemption for your empty property. Photo © Neil Theasby (cc-by-sa/2.0)

Must I Pay Council Tax On A Renovation Property?

If you have purchased an old property that need extensive renovations you can apply for a council tax exemption whilst undergoing the work.

The property must be unfurnished and you cannot leave any furniture in the house while the work is going on or the council tax exemption cannot be applied.

A council may grant 100% exemption for the first 6 months of the work and up to 50% for a further 6 months. Once an exemption has been granted the council will send round someone to inspect the property to make sure that it is unfurnished.

The council may also issue a completion notice stating how long you have to complete the property renovation or repairs.

Property Resources
Council tax information from the UK Government
Citizens Advice on Council Tax
How is council tax calculated?

Which Empty Properties Are Exempt From Council Tax?

There are some properties that are exempt from council tax for the whole period that they remain empty. If someone is in prison or if the property belongs to someone who has been moved into a care home or hospital then it is exempt from council tax.

This also applies if it is the home of someone being cared for by relatives. A property that has been repossessed is exempt as is any empty property that has been compulsory purchased. Any property that cannot be lived in by law is also exempt from paying council tax.

Empty buildings which do not pay council tax
Certain properties may be completely exempt from council tax. Photo © Gordon Hatton (cc-by-sa/2.0)

Long Term Unoccupied Properties And Council Tax

There may be a council tax surcharge for properties that have been empty for at least two years. Councils have the power to charge 50% extra tax and a local authority may also set a premium charge for unoccupied properties.

This could be up to 150% of the normal council tax rate. It is important to understand exactly what your rights are and what you are liable for when you own or buy an empty property.

Does A Landlord Have To Pay Council Tax On An Empty Property?

As soon as a tenant moves out and notifies the council of their new residence, the responsibility for council tax reverts to the landlord. If this happens landlords are entitled to an exemption of council tax for 6 months.

However, this will only apply if you immediately notify the council that the property is empty. Even if it is vacant for just one month and you do not inform the council you could end up with a bill for that month. So, if you want to leave the property empty to do some decorating or alterations make sure that you let the council know.

Photo of an empty house being renovated
If your property is being renovated it may also be exempt from certain charges and council tax. Photo © Brian Robert Marshall (cc-by-sa/2.0)

Can I Avoid Paying Council Tax On An Empty Property?

The new rules established in 2013 mean that councils can charge a premium rate of council tax on empty property. Originally set at 50%, now the premium can be up to 100% which makes the tax double the normal rate.

Even though the definition of an empty property may vary in different local authorities there are two criteria that are set. An empty property that is substantially unfurnished and unoccupied for two years will be classed as empty.

The council tax premium on empty properties was designed to prevent a glut of houses being left as wasted resources and unless the property is classed as derelict you will be liable for the extra council tax premium. One way to avoid this extra tax is to let out the property and receive some income.

Is Council Tax Payable On Empty Derelict Property?

In the case of a property that is derelict as well as empty, in most cases council tax is still payable. However, the rules for discounts and exemptions do vary between different local authorities.

If you find yourself in a situation where you consider the property to be uninhabitable, the best option is to contact the local council for an assessment which may result in the property being removed from liability for council tax.

Photo of a derelict house
if you are unsure of the situation with your property, talk to your local council. Photo © Richard Law (cc-by-sa/2.0)

Empty Property Council Tax Summary

Council tax on empty property is a complex subject. The tax is due on property whether or not it is owned or rented and it applies to every kind of dwelling including house boats and mobile homes. Some empty properties may be exempt for a period of time and some are eligible for discounts. The place to get information is the local authority as rules can vary between councils.

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