Empty properties and the Council Tax
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Empty properties and the Council Tax

This page tells you who is responsible for paying Council Tax for empty properties.

If there are no residents in a property, the owner is liable. Owner in this context means a person who:

  • has a ‘material interest’ in the whole or any part of the dwelling 

  • at least part of the dwelling, or the part concerned, is not subject to a material interest inferior to his interest - e.g. a tenancy exists on the property but it remains unoccupied.

‘Material interest’ means a freehold interest or a leasehold interest which was granted for a term of six months or more. Sometimes a tenant can be classed as ‘the owner’ if they have a tenancy agreement for six months or more. But if a tenant's six-month tenancy has ended and their tenancy has become a 'rolling' periodic tenancy, they usually can't be held liable for any empty charges once they move out unless their tenancy agreement contains a “continuation clause” which provides that the same fixed term tenancy will continue as a periodic tenancy once the initial fixed term period has come to an end. In cases where tenancy agreements contain a “continuation clause” then the tenant will still be classed as ‘the owner‘ and therefore liable for any empty charges until the tenancy is terminated, even if they have vacated the property. There is more information about rented properties on the related page Rented properties and the Council Tax.​

Unoccupied and unfurnished properties from April 2014

With effect from 1 April 2014 - a discount of 100% can be granted for a property which is unoccupied and unfurnished for a period of 7 days or less, so no Council Tax is payable for them. However if the property is empty for over 7 days, no discount can be allowed so full Council Tax is payable from the date the property first became unoccupied and unfurnished.

Unoccupied but furnished properties

If a property is empty and furnished, it is liable for 100% Council Tax. This also applies to second homes - see related page 'Second homes or properties and the Council Tax.

Properties empty and unfurnished over 2 years

Once a property has been empty for over 2 years, if councils want to they can apply a long-term empty premium. Leeds City Council has decided to set a premium of 50%. This means that for properties empty for over 2 years the rate of Council Tax payable is 150%. This decision is in line with the Council's policy on long-term empty properties.

The strategy is designed to return to use properties which have been empty for long periods and which can contribute to the decline of areas of the city.

The 2 years is calculated from when the property became empty and unfurnished, therefore this may be before you became liable for the property.

Please note: there is no right of appeal to the Valuation Tribunal about the council’s decisions relating to empty properties in Leeds.

Click to expandEmpty properties before April 2013

Until 1 April 2013, exemptions applied to unoccupied and unfurnished properties for up to six months (exemption class C), or for up to 12 months for empty properties being refurbished (exemption class A). However, Council Tax law has changed so from 1 April 2013, these exemptions no longer exist. Instead, councils can decide how much discount to grant for empty properties in these circumstances. From 1 April 2013 Leeds City Council decided to allow no discount at all. 

If you have a property which is in a poor state of repair, or undergoing substantial refurbishment work or structural alterations, the Council must charge you for it unless the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) deletes it from the Council Tax list. However the VOA will only do this if it is derelict and uninhabitable, or if the work is substantial and the property is being rebuilt or structurally altered. The VOA has produced a factsheet on this – click on the link in “External links” for further help.​

Click to expandCan I apply for a discount for a period before 1 April 2013?

Before 1 April 2013 some empty properties which had been empty for less than six months and properties undergoing major repair work could apply for a discount. From 1 April 2013, no exemption applies to properties in either of these circumstances. 

Properties that are furnished but are nobody’s main residence used to qualify for a 10% discount but from 01.04.13, no discount applies. If you want to claim a discount before 1 April 2013 download the claim form Exemption A in the Documents section.

Click to expandAnnexes

From 1 April 2014, a 50% discount can be granted for an annex which is part of a single property if:

  • it’s being used by the resident of the main house as part of their sole or main residence, or
  • it’s the sole or main residence of a relative of the person who is responsible for the Council Tax at the main house.

If you have an annex and think this discount should apply, a claim form is available in the Documents section of this page.​

Click to expandWhy must I pay full Council Tax for an empty property when a sole occupier gets a 25% discount?

The 25% 'Single person discount' only applies to a property occupied by just one person. From 01.04.13 councils can decide whether empty properties should get a discount and Leeds has decided not to give any discount for empty properties.​​

Click to expandWhy do I have to pay full Council Tax when I am not using any/all of the council's services?

​The amount of Council Tax payable is not affected by how many services a householder receives; it is a contribution towards the cost of all the council’s services, including Adult Social Care, Children’s Services, education, highways, street lighting, waste disposal, parks, sports centres, libraries etc., and also towards the police, fire and rescue services and public transport.

To view documents in PDF format you will require the free Download Adobe Reader Adobe Acrobat Reader

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