Talks on tax hike for empty homes

2:10pm Monday 28th January 2013

OWNERS of empty homes could see a council tax hike of up to 150 per cent as Town Hall bosses try to claw back £2 million per year.

Bolton Council chiefs hope the controversial move will see the number of empty homes in Bolton, which currently stands at more than 3,000, fall by up to a third.

If given the go-ahead, the council will spend £60,000 to cover the salaries and mileage costs of a new council tax inspector and a senior council tax officer.

The proposals are likely to be approved tonight at the council’s cabinet meeting.

Council deputy chief executive Steve Arnfield said: “There are lots of empty properties that people don’t use. We have got a housing shortage and we want people to bring those properties into use.

“We could have been harsher but we are trying to strike the balance. The majority of homes do get reoccupied within the three months.”

He said the council has created a fund, £400,000 annually, which can be used at the council’s discretion to help people in exceptional circumstances, such as caring for a family member.

Mr Arnfield said: “If home owners are suffering some hardship at the moment they are paying 50 per cent and the excess can be paid when the property is sold. If people are in real hardship there will be a discretionary fund available.”

The changes could bring in an additional £2 million in council tax, but town hall chiefs say the figure is likely to be £1 million because many owners are expected to arrange for property to be rented or brought back into use.

Empty homes will be exempt from payments for the first three months, but after six months the full council tax rate will apply.

If a home is not occupied within two years, an additional 50 per cent will be added to the council tax bill.

Homes undergoing major refurbishment or repairs will be free of charges for the first year, but, if the plans go ahead, the current 50 per cent discount for the second year will be scrapped.

Homes under refurbishment will be subject to a 150 per cent charge after two years.

Owners of empty properties will be informed of the increases by writing in February and the changes, if approved, will be brought in from April.

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