Increased charges to help tackle empty homes problem

Released on December 5, 2018

Hundreds of empty homes in southern Oxfordshire could be brought back into use as a result of increased charges proposed by South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse District Councils.

The two district councils are set to increase the amount of council tax that property owners must pay on homes which are left empty for more than two years, with an even greater premium after five years and ten years unoccupied.

Currently, there are more than 300 long-term empty properties across the two districts, many of which have been left that way for several years. 

With a significant housing shortage in the area, having these homes available again would provide a boost for families who are struggling to find suitable properties to rent or buy.

In 2013 the councils introduced the current premium of 50 per cent additional council tax on long-term empty properties.  This measure has helped to significantly reduce the number of long-term empty homes, dropping from 504 to 183 in South, and from 351 to 136 in the Vale.  The councils now want to target the remaining properties and believe that increasing the premium will encourage even more owners to bring their homes back into use.

The two councils are proposing that the premium will be as follows:

  • from 1 April 2019 - 100 per cent additional council tax on properties which are empty for two or more years
  • from 1 April 2020 - 200 per cent additional council tax on properties which are empty for five or more years
  • from 1 April 2021 - 300 per cent additional council tax on properties which are empty for ten or more years.

If property owners fail to bring the homes back into use then it is estimated that in 2019 the increased premium could bring in more than £138,000 additional tax revenue in the Vale and over £180,000 in South Oxfordshire.  By April 2021, if an average Band D rated property has been left empty for ten years or more then the owner could be required to pay more than £7,400 council tax per year on that property.

The proposal to increase the empty homes premium is subject to approval by the councils’ Cabinets on 7 December (Vale) and 18 December (South).

Cllr David Dodds, Cabinet Member for Finance at South Oxfordshire District Council, said: "We have a significant shortage of housing across southern Oxfordshire so it’s extremely frustrating to see many homes still lying empty.  When we introduced the 50 per cent premium in 2013 we saw an immediate and significant reduction in the number of empty homes.   By increasing the premium we believe that many owners of the remaining properties will be encouraged to bring them back into use too."

Cllr Robert Sharp, Cabinet Member for Finance at Vale of White Horse District Council, said: "The proposal to increase the premium on empty homes is very much a win-win for us and our residents.  Either owners will bring these homes back into use and more will be available for people to rent or buy, or we will see an increase in the amount of money coming in from the owners of empty properties to help pay for our important public services."

Notes for editors

In addition to the normal exemptions, such as dwellings left unoccupied by long-stay hospital patients and by people who move permanently into a nursing home or residential home,  premises which are owned by members of the armed forces will also be exempt from the premium.