Skip to content
  1. Do it online
  2. Login
  3. Have your say
  4. My Durham

Cabinet to consider empty and second homes proposal

Published November 07, 2023 3.46pm


Proposals to adopt additional council tax raising flexibilities and apply additional charges on long term empty and second homes in County Durham are set to be discussed.

Our Cabinet is being recommended to approve proposals which include additional charges on properties that have been empty for over 12 months, and those that have been empty for more than 10 years.

The plans are intended to bring properties back into use whilst also generating additional spending power for us, at a time when we are having to make millions of pounds of savings.

The need to make savings is due to unavoidable inflationary spending pressures outstripping our council tax raising powers and the grant we receive from government.

The proposed changes follow the Regeneration and Levelling Up Bill receiving Royal Ascent, which makes provision for authorities to increase council tax charges on long term empty and second homes and come as other councils consider similar moves.

The proposals have been subject to consultation.

"Difficult decisions"

Cllr Richard Bell, our deputy Leader and portfolio holder for finance, said: "As with councils up and down the country, we are currently faced with making very difficult decisions to try and balance our budgets.

"We have to look across our service areas, and the government's Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, which was passed into law in October, paves the way for local authorities to consider extra council tax charges on long term empty and second homes.

"Given the position we are in, it is only right that we join a number of other councils in exploring this option.

"There was recognition from those taking part in the consultation that our proposals would reduce numbers of empty properties and, therefore, increase availability of housing, including affordable homes.

"Respondents also acknowledged that the proposals would generate spending power for us as we try to balance our budgets. We would like to thank everyone who took part."

Consultation response

A report to the meeting sets out how more than 56 per cent of respondents to the consultation either agreed or strongly agreed with increased premiums for properties that have been unoccupied and unfurnished for more than ten years. Of the 656 responses, 209 strongly agreed and 159 agreed.

Of the 185 County Durham residents who responded who were not directly affected by the proposals, 79 per cent either agreed or strongly agreed.

In terms of a proposal to reduce the period of time a property can be unoccupied and unfurnished before being subject to 100 per cent council tax, 58 per cent of local residents agreed or strongly agreed.

And 63 per cent of the residents who responded, agreed or strongly agreed with the introduction of a council tax premium for properties classed as a second home.

What is proposed

The proposals that Cabinet is being asked to approve at its meeting next Wednesday 15 November would:

  • Increase the council tax premium charge for properties which have been unoccupied and unfurnished for more than ten years from 200 to 300 per cent. This is in line with existing legislation and if agreed would take effect from 1 April 2024.
  • Reduce the period of time a property can be unoccupied and unfurnished before being subject to 100 per cent council tax premium, from two years to one year. If agreed, this would come in from 1 April 2024.
  • Apply a 100 per cent council tax premium charge on second homes - properties where there is no resident, and which is substantially furnished. If agreed, this would come in from 1 April 2025.