Landlords with empty and unfurnished properties used to be entitled to full Council Tax exemption for up to six months. However, this benefit has now largely disappeared, leaving many landlords with large bills when tenants vacate their properties. What exactly does this new system involve and how can you work out how much Council Tax you have to pay?
What Are the Changes?
Before 1st April 2013, if a rented property became vacant, the landlord wouldn’t have to pay Council Tax for the first six months and would then be entitled to a discount. This allowed them time to find a new tenant and undertake any renovation work without having to pay Council Tax.
Following changes to Council Tax benefits that were introduced from 1st April 2013, local authorities are now individually responsible for allocating their own discounts. This new Council Tax Support allows them to offer discounts or exemptions to certain groups of residents depending on their needs and the budget available.
How Does This Affect Landlords?
When a property becomes vacant it’s now up to the landlord to contact the council to tell them and enquire if any benefits are available. As with other residents, this new landlord law means that if they fail to do so, they will be sent a Council Tax bill. Failure to pay could lead to the council taking court action and instructing bailiffs to collect the full amount.
As there’s no consistency among the different councils, it’s hard for landlords to know exactly how much they’ll need to pay. Some councils are allowing landlords a period of one month before they’ll start charging, whereas others are charging Council Tax at a discounted rate or offering no exemptions for landlords at all. If all their properties are within one council boundary then it should be fairly easy for them to contact the local authority and find out which rules apply. However, for bigger landlords with properties in different areas, the administrative work will become more complex. They’ll have to speak to each individual council and apply different rules for their properties.
Working Out How Much Council Tax You Owe
As there are different rules in different areas of the country, you need to contact the specific local authority to find out their rates and any discounts you’re eligible for. The Council Tax section of the direct.gov website has a search facility, so you can find details of the council and links to their Council Tax pages.
How to Reduce Your Council Tax Bill?
As a landlord it’s important that your properties are operating at a profit, or at least providing enough rental income to cover your costs. If you know your property’s going to be empty contact the local council as soon as possible to see what rules apply and complete the necessary forms. This way you’ll know exactly how much you’ll have to pay. It’s important to know your landlord rights.
Try to limit the amount of time your property is empty for. This can be more difficult in certain parts of the country where rental properties are not let out as quickly. Contact an agent once your tenant has given notice and tell them you want to rent out the property as quickly as possible. If you need to do any minor decorations or repairs, try to line someone up to do the work as soon as the tenants vacate the property.
With these new changes, landlords have to be more prepared for periods when properties are vacant. It’s important to start planning early and have a contingency budget in place to cover these additional costs.
Article courtesy of propertyreclaim.com©LandlordZONE® – legal content applies primarily to England and is not a definitive statement of the law, always seek professional advice.