No tax relief for empty homes in Chichester district


SECOND home-owners could be hit with a 50 per cent rise in council tax, as the council discusses a premium rate for empty homes.

Chichester District Council’s cabinet will discuss the possibility of charging an extra 50 per cent on top of the council tax bill, for homes which have been vacant for more than two years.

A report by Christine Christie, the council’s revenues and performance manger, said this might encourage owners to bring the homes back into use.

She said it would also bring in additional funds for the council at a time of funding cuts.

“The additional cost of the Empty Homes Premium may encourage owners to furnish them or bring the property back into use in order to avoid the premium,” she said.

The cabinet are set to agree to launch a consultation into the move, which if it’s given the go-ahead, will come into force on April 1, 2015.

The move is estimated to raise an extra £109,450 a year, which would be shared between West Sussex County Council, Chichester District Council and Sussex Police.

The council will also consider council tax rates on unfurnished and unoccupied homes.

A decision was already made to charge the full rate for unfurnished and unoccupied homes in 2013/14 and 2014/15, rather than giving 
a discount.

But after a member of the public asked the council to rethink the move, and give taxpayers a grace period of one month, it is back on the council agenda.

However, the report to the council recommends retaining a zero-per-cent discount for these taxpayers, despite the plea from a member of the public.

The move affects those who purchase a property but can’t move in straight away, landlords who have vacant periods between tenancies and benefit customers who are forced to enter into a new tenancy before their previous one has ceased.

The officer’s report said to apply a discount would ‘cause an increased financial burden’ on the council.

Neighbouring Arun District Council applies a 50 per cent discount for unfurnished and unoccupied homes, for up to six months, and many council’s in West Sussex apply a 100 per cent discount for a one-month grace period.

However, the cabinet will be urged to recommend a zero discount policy.

The report said the estimated cost of applying a 100 per cent discount for one month to unoccupied and unfurnished homes in the district was £245,577.

The cabinet will discuss the items and make a recommendation to full council, which will make the final decision.

The cabinet meeting will be held at East Pallant House, tomorrow (June 3) from 9.30am.