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Trade group demands government acts on "scourge of empty homes"

A lettings sector trade body is demanding that the government brings forward tax measures to address what it calls “the scourge of empty homes.”

According to new figures, between October 2017 and October 2018 the number of empty homes in England increased by almost 30,000 from some 606,000 to over 634,000.

Of these, the number of homes classed as being empty for six months or more increased by over 10,000 from more than 205,000 in October 2017 to over 216,000 in October 2018.

Analysis by modular home company Project Etopia says long-term vacant homes now account for £53.6 billion of property in England.

With the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors having warned that the supply of new homes for private rent “continue to dwindle” whilst tenant demand increases, the Residential Landlords Association is calling for pro-growth tax measures to bring empty homes back into use.

The RLA is urging the government to scrap its additional stamp duty levy on buy to let properties where landlords invest in long-term empty homes and bring them back into use within a reasonable period of time.

“The scandal of empty homes at a time when so many are finding it difficult to access accommodation is just one reason why pro-growth tax is needed” says John Stewart, the RLA policy manager.

“The government should support good landlords to do what they have always been good at – investing in property and bringing it back into long term use.”

Project Etopia says that of all towns and cities in England, Portsmouth saw the biggest percentage rise in long-term empty homes last year, with 101.5 per cent more properties standing empty, totalling 939.

Hartlepool saw the second biggest rise (53.8 per cent to 726), while Eastbourne posted the third largest increase (48.4 per cent to 518).

Birmingham had the highest overall number in the country with 4,283 long-term vacant homes, barely changed on the previous year and rising just 0.07 per cent, followed by Durham with 4,130 and Bradford with 4,090.

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    This is symptomatic of a much wider problem which is simply having a way to to hold wealth without loosing it through taxation. Paying rates on an empty house sounds excessive but if you put in a tenant then you take on a shed load of problems and legal obligations and that is going to get worse when the latest tranche of new property laws take root. I have had to work through this paradox recently. I just sold up since the property seemed to attract hopeless tenants and that is a very high risk if compulsory long tenancies become mandatory.

    It is a difficult subject but letting councils appoint themselves as controllers of other peoples property is getting very close to communism. I saw enough of Eastern Europe back in the day to well know that central control of residential property is a disaster.

  • S l
    • S l
    • 14 March 2019 10:07 AM

    They want to crucified prs for letting out to tenants n self appointed councils use their self made power to manipulate the situation. So empty property is the answers for many not willing to be prosecuted by the council using criminal powers they created for their own usage. BUT property owners are being squeeze into a corner . Letting ? No! Empty property? NO! What are we to do?

  • Paul Barrett

    It is very easy to game the system if needed to ensure that a property is not technically empty.
    Just make up any old name you like.
    Ensure the Council knows that a single person is occupying so as to benefit from SPD on Council Tax.
    A tenancy agreement can be for £0 if the LL wants.
    There is no law that requires a LL to charge rent.
    Choose an East European name.
    This means they won't have the right to vote.
    No LL should ever need to disclose to the council that a property is unoccupied.
    Obviously from the outside the property has to look like it is plausibly habitable.
    If the Council asks for RTR documentation you've lost them.
    Never known ever to be asked.
    I have had numerous East Europeans staying at my various properties usually for very short periods.
    Of course I will never know whether the Council has ever been successful in recovering C Tax arrears because the Council is not allowed to discuss with me any aspects of the C Tax account especially as I never obtained permission to discuss from the tenant.
    If Councils wish to gouge LL for C Tax when empty then LL can simply game the system to reduce the C Tax liability even though it isn't that much.
    But of course the Council then has the task of tracking down the East European tenant for C Tax arrears.
    I doubt whether the Council has ever recovered C Tax arrears from my East European tenants!!
    I have never been given a forwarding address by any of my former short term East European tenants.
    I have NEVER paid the C Tax liability for any of my former East European tenants who by the way also defaulted on their rent!
    Foolishly I never took a deposit from any of these tenants.
    So I was ripped off by these East European tenants and so was the Council for Council Tax.
    It really isn't easy being a LL.
    Of course in the old days when C Tax wasn't paid on unoccupied properties there wasn't any problem in notifying a council of occupancy status.
    Well now with Councils removing the zero C Tax for vacant properties LL need to have a property occupied at all times even if for only a few weeks before another tenant is sourced.
    All my previous East European tenants sign a surrender letter and return the keys................very good tenants those E European tenants. Saves me having to evict the rent defaulting and C Tax defaulting so and so's!!!

  • S l
    • S l
    • 14 March 2019 11:36 AM

    unfortunately, the council will require a contract even from students in bath although the bath uni have their name and addresses on their system to tally with the council that the students live there. not only does that help to establish the tax exemption but that in fact would also be given by the council to the hmrc for taxation purposes. however, when i let my 17 year old child live in the flat above us, the council refused to grant student exemption despite having the school confirming her address and student status, they claimed its council tax avoidance and because she decided she wanted a new bathroom , hence bathroom cleared out ready to install new bathroom suites and kitchen was in very outdated state with only a larder table and chair, cooker, fridge and freezer, the council refused to grant exemption claimed that its one house hold. They even call the valuation department to change the 2 flats into one house which they called and i objected. It seems that the council can decide and dictate what you do with your property . any advice anyone

  • Paul Barrett

    if you are going for student exemption then that is usually a long term circumstance.
    You have to ensure if going for student exemption that everything is plausibly correct.
    This essentially means the student has to be a genuine student and recognised as such by the authorities.
    So if this cannot be proven then student exemption should NOT be claimed.
    Also very difficult to see that 2 flats can be assessed as 1 house.
    Depends on what the title deeds state.

    S l
    • S l
    • 14 March 2019 14:33 PM

    this property was bought and already being council taxed as two flats with two addresses for the last 10-15 years under an english gentleman. unfortunately, when our name is not english, it does brings out the worst in some who works in the council. My child is a genuine student studying A level for 2 first. But the fact that they know my name and address as a landlord with a portfolio, it does not bode well for me and hence the refusal to give exemption or discount on single person. i even had difficulty gettting it tax at normal rate as it was empty before and being taxed 150% CT !!! The only difference is its a house divided into two flats which is the norm in this town. In fact, majority of the houses on the street been divided into 2-4 flats depending on their layout as i had discovered recently.

     
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