Council tax is a tax like any other – something we don’t enjoy paying but have to do so by law. Paying council tax becomes even less desirable when you’re having to pay it for a property you own which has no one currently lives in.
This leads you to start searching ‘how to avoid paying council tax on an empty property’ and that’s probably how you’ve ended up here! Well, you’re in good hands (if we do say so ourselves…)
Not only are we going to give you our top tips on how to avoid paying council tax on an empty property, but we’re also going to talk you through exactly what council tax is and why you have to pay it, even if no one is living in your property.
Well, without further ado let’s dive right in! You can use this menu to help if you’re needing an answer to something specific:
- What is council tax?
- Do you pay council tax on an empty property?
- What is classed as an empty property?
- How to avoid paying council tax on an empty property
What is council tax?
Council tax, as the name suggests, is an amount paid to your local council every year to go towards services in your local area. Services include bin collection, policing and support for the elderly, as well as general government spending.
Every property is put into a council tax ‘band’, lettered from A to H. The band you’re placed in will depend upon your properties size, location, value and a few other factors. If you’re unsure which council tax band you fall under, you can use the government website to find an answer.
Every year in April, the person living in the property will be given a council tax bill, with the option of paying in installments or all in one sum.
Paying the council tax bill is the responsibility of the person, or people, living in the property. This may be either the owner of the property or the tenants, if in a privately rented or council property.
Some people will be able to get council tax discounts or exemptions, but this will vary from council to council and so if you think you’re entitled to a discount or exemption, get in touch with the council of your area.
Do you pay council tax on an empty property?
Yes, you do have to pay council tax on an empty property, but some councils will offer a discount of up to 50%, if the house has been left ‘furnished’.
If you have an ‘unfurnished’ property left empty, it’s unlikely you will be able to get any discount and, after 2 years, you will have to pay an empty house council tax premium, which we’re going to explain more on later (so keep your eyes peeled…)
Some properties won’t get a council tax bill as long as they stay empty, if they’re:
- A home of someone in prison (except if in for not paying a fine or council tax)
- A home of someone who’s moved into a care home or hospital
- A home that has been repossessed
- A home that can’t be lived in by law, an example of this is if they’re derelict
- A home that is empty because they’ve been compulsory purchased and will be demolished
If you’re refurbishing your second home, you won’t need to pay any empty house council tax during the process, but as soon as the property is fully refurbished you will have to begin paying council tax.
Also, if you’re selling an empty property on behalf of an owner passing away, you won’t need to pay empty house council tax on the property until after probate is granted, providing the property stays empty.
Even after probate has been granted, you may be able to get a council tax exemption for another 6 months, if the property is both unoccupied and still owned in the name of the person who passed away.
As we mentioned earlier, there are chances of getting a council tax exemption, depending on your local council. Properties you may not have to pay council tax for are:
- An annexe
- An empty property that’s owned and last used by a registered charity as part of their work
- An empty property that is the responsibility of a trustee following bankruptcy
- A property that is held empty for use by a minister of religion
- An empty caravan pitch or boat mooring
Why do I have to pay council tax on an empty property?
The reason council tax has to be paid on an empty property is to encourage people to bring them back into use. Also, even if the property is unlived in, it will still need to use services in the local area, such as policing, meaning the owner of the property is required to pay ‘empty house council tax’.
Is council tax reduced if property is empty?
Generally there is no discount for empty properties, but you may get one if your home is undergoing major repair work or structural changes. You may actually be given total council tax relief whilst the work is being undertaken, but you will have to start paying council tax as soon as the project is completed. The council will give you a ‘completion notice’ which will tell you the date you must begin paying council tax.
You shouldn’t have to pay council tax if your property is considered to be derelict. In order to be classed as derelict, the property:
- Isn’t possible to live in, for example if it’s been damaged by weather or rot
- Would need major structural works to make it ‘wind and watertight’ again
If you feel your property is derelict and you’re paying council tax, you can challenge your council tax band.
What is classed as an empty property?
For the purpose of council tax, the definition of an empty property is, ‘A property that is no one’s sole or main residence and isn’t a second home.’ In order to be charged empty house council tax, your property will need to be unfurnished.
Although there’s no legal definition of what unfurnished means, we can tell you what a furnished property would be expected to have, which is:
- Somewhere to store clothes
- Chairs or a sofa
- A cooker or a microwave
- A fridge freezer
How long can a property be left empty?
You can leave a property empty for as long as you wish, but it’s important to keep in mind that if a property has been empty and unfurnished for two years or more, you’ll be charged double the amount of council tax you would normally pay.
If a property has been empty and unfurnished for five or more years, you’ll be charged triple the normal rate. This is known as a long-term empty premium, which, as we mentioned earlier, is charged to encourage people to bring empty homes back into use.
The empty period will start from when the property first became empty and unfurnished, even if the owner has changed. The premium will stop as soon as you move in, or when the property is furnished.
How to avoid paying council tax on an empty property
Although council tax is a tax like any other, meaning it MUST be paid, there are some ways which you can try to get around it. We’ve put together some top tips on how to avoid paying council tax on an empty property – read on and take notes (just kidding, reading alone will do the job):
- Let the property out – by letting out the property, you’re able to avoid paying an empty house council tax premium, as the property will be occupied and the tenant in the property will be responsible for paying the council tax. Letting the property out will also allow you to gain some extra income = big win!
- Look at discounts – it could be worth contacting your local council if you feel you may be eligible for a discount on your council tax. This, of course, doesn’t wipe out council tax completely, but it will make it more affordable
- Know what the exceptions are – it’s important to know if your empty property is exempt from council tax. Whether that be because it’s been left furnished, and therefore isn’t technically empty, or the owner of the property is in prison or a care home
- Use a property guardian – this is something most people aren’t familiar with. A property guardian is someone who lives in your property when you’re leaving it unoccupied. The guardian will pay rent and will also be responsible for the council tax bill. Not only can you avoid paying council tax with a guardian, but it also means your property isn’t left unattended and any maintenance will be seen to immediately. A guardian also keeps your property safe from vandals or burglars
As we mentioned earlier, council tax is a tax beneath it all and therefore a legal requirement. There are also no guarantees your local council will allow you a discount or an exemption. However, by following our tips, you may be able to find yourself some way around paying empty house council tax!
There you have it – everything you need to know about council tax, including how to avoid paying council tax on an empty property! Do you have some insight to give? Or maybe, you want to have a go at writing an article like this yourself? Whatever it is, don’t hesitate to get in touch!
Millie is a perfectionist with a passion for property and writing articles. You’ll find her researching the latest housing trends and the newest up and coming areas worth investing in.