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

Council Tax on empty properties and second homes

If you own an empty property, you still have to pay the full Council Tax on that property. For the first two years that your property is empty, you pay the same amount of Council Tax that you'd pay if the property was occupied. If the property has been empty for more than two years, your property will be liable for additional charges, known as a premium.

This premium applies from two years after the property became unoccupied and unfurnished, rather than when you became liable for the Council Tax on that property. In certain circumstances you may apply for these additional charges to be removed (a reduction in the premium). 

Empty properties 

  • Properties empty for up to two years: you will be charged the same amount of Council Tax as an occupied property - there are no discounts available for properties empty for up to two years.
  • Properties empty between two and five years: an unfurnished property is charged at two times the amount of Council Tax as an occupied property - this is a 100% premium.
  • Properties empty for more than five years: an unfurnished property is charged three times the amount of Council Tax as an occupied property - this is a 200% premium.

Changes from the 1 April 2024

Following the Government's Levelling Up and Regeneration bill being passed into law and a public consultation held last year, changes have been made to our long term empty property Council Tax premiums. The changes are: 

  • Reduction to the period of time a property can be unoccupied and unfurnished  before being subject to a 100 per cent Council Tax premium, from two years to one year. This means the Council Tax bill would now be 200 per cent of the liability.
  • 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 means the Council Tax bill would now be 400 per cent of the liability

Apply for a reduction in the premium

There are some circumstances where you may be able to apply for a discount on the amount of Council Tax you pay on your empty property. This means that you'd pay the same Council Tax that you'd pay if your property was occupied. These are properties are:

  • for sale or to rent: the property should be advertised through an estate agent, at a realistic market value
  • in need of renovation: if you're the new owner of a property that requires work to make the property fit to live in, you may be eligible for a discount. You must be able to provide evidence of the work completed and outstanding
  • where the owner is experiencing legal or technical issues, and is therefore unable to sell or let the property out
  • deliberately kept empty or properties waiting to be demolished because they are part of a renovation project

Please note that if you apply for a reduction and are successful, this reduction will only apply to the current financial year's Council Tax account. We will send you a letter inviting you to re-apply each financial year and you will be required to submit evidence in support of your application at that time.

We have opted to provide this discount under  Icon for pdf Council Tax Section 13A(1)(c) Discretionary Reduction Policy (PDF, 199.3kb)  for properties subject to the premium. Not all councils provide this discount.

Change in ownership

A property is classed as an 'empty property' from the date that the property becomes empty. So for example, if you buy a property that has been empty for more than five years, the Council Tax you pay will be on a property that has been empty for five years which is three times the amount of Council Tax as an occupied property.

Furnished and unoccupied properties

Furnished properties that have been unoccupied for over two years remain subject to 100% Council Tax.

Second homes needed for work

In some circumstances, you may be eligible for a 50% discount if your second home is job related. If you think you're entitled to this reduction you should report changes affecting your council tax.

If your circumstances change

If any of your circumstances change that could alter how much you pay, you need to let us know as soon as possible. Financial penalties may apply if you pay less when you're not entitled to. See our Tell us you've moved house or had a change in circumstances page for more information.