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Owners of dereIict homes sent higher council tax bills

Homeowners who leave their properties derelict for more than two years are now being hit with a 150% council tax bill. Under new rules which kicked in yesterday (Wednesday), Canterbury City Council can demand increased tax on homes which are laid to waste. And the Gazette can today reveal that nearly 2,500 properties in Canterbury, Herne Bay and Whitstable are sitting empty. Of these, 137 are classified long-term empty and their owners are
being sent the higher bills. Peter Lee, Conservative councillor for Herne Bay’s Westgate Ward, said:

“We’re doing this for two reasons. Firstly it’s about preventing homeowners from allowing properties to become derelict. This brings down the tone of a neighbourhood. Secondly, it’s part of a whole raft of measures to make sure the most is being made of our housing stock.”

In its Local Plan, Canterbury City Council has vowed to build more than 15,000 new homes in the district. Construction of new homes attracts extra funding from central government in the form of the New Homes Bonus. And conversion of existing derelict properties can also qualify the council for the bonus, council documents reveal. According to support papers of the council’s executive meeting held earlier in March:

“Introducing a long-term empty premium could incentivise owners to bring properties back into use and therefore increase the New Homes Bonus payable to the council.”

A Freedom of Information request put to the council revealed this week that there are currently 2,489 empty properties in the district. Council spokesman Rob Davies said:

“This could be anything from a flat that is between lets and is empty for a few days to a house that has been empty for years.”

The Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement) Regulations 2012 gives local councils power to levy an empty homes premium of up to 50% on top of the usual tax bill for homes left empty for more than two years. Exceptions apply to properties left empty by serving members of the Armed Forces. Mr Davies said there were number of reasons the council had encountered for owners leaving properties unattended.

“Reasons range from property needing substantial work which can’t be funded, families inheriting properties which are sub-standard and not wanting to deal with it at all, or properties undergoing major works, albeit at slow rates of progress,” he said. “They may also just be empty simply because the owner has other property elsewhere they are living in and their circumstances mean they are not living in our district.”

Herne Bay Gazette, April 2nd 2015

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