Do you pay Council Tax on an empty property?

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Eamonn Turley

What the Experts Say

Eamonn Turley Founder of MultiQuoteTime

"A property that is left empty for an extended period of time will pose additional risk to the insurance company in terms of damage to property that could go unnoticed, leading to major damage. This along with other risk factors will invalidate any standard house insurance policy. In this scenario, contact your existing provider to discuss insurance options for an empty property"   The period of time depending on the provider can be as little as 30 days!

Last Review April 2023 by MultiQuoteTime Editorial Team

You will need to pay Council Tax on an empty property, in some circumstances the council may give you a discount.  The amount discounted if any is up to them, and you will need to contact them to see if you would qualify. 

Unoccupied over 2 years

To help reduce the housing shortage in the UK, councils will double council tax charges if a property is left empty long term, 2 years and over.

What does unoccupied mean for council tax?

do you pay council tax on empty house

A property is deemed to be unoccupied by the local council when it is nobody's sole or main home (place of residence).

Unoccupied House and your home Insurance policy

For many, it will come as a surprise when they look at the conditions of a standard home insurance policy that is being left unoccupied. In most cases, the policy will become ineffective if the property has been left after 30 days. Other providers are more generous, but all will impose a time limit, after which any policy will no longer be valid. 

What is council tax used for?

Council tax is the money we pay monthly for the services our local council provide. From your bin men to the potholes in your road being removed, transport services like the local bus or train, education services like libraries and even making sure we have functional street lights. A small percentage of it also goes to the local police, fire services, your leisure or sports centre and your recreational parks. The money you pay for it covers services like these in your local area. Some properties can be exempt from paying for a certain period or indefinitely. Now, if your property is empty, the exemptions for not having to pay council tax are:

Some possible exceptions from paying Council Tax

  • Condemned property
  • Unoccupied because the occupant has been moved into a care home or hospital.
  • Unoccupied because the occupant has gone to work in a different town or city.
  • Major renovations
  • A long holiday that exceeds the maximum term property can be left empty under current house insurance (can be as little as 30 days!)

Key Takeaway?  If your property is going to be empty for 30 days or longer, you need to contact your house insurance provider and arrange short term unoccupied house insurance with them or with another home insurance provider.

When you apply for an exemption, the council will send round an inspector to check the above. Dependent on what they accept, you get a 100% exemption for the first six months and up to 50% exemption for another six months. 

If none of these exemptions apply to you, then read on because you will be charged. 

The council can charge you a premium if you have a long-term empty property. Long-term is identified as empty and unfurnished for two years or more and the kick in the teeth is that you pay this premium on top of the normal council tax charge. Dependant how long the property has been empty, it can range from 100% to 200% of your normal bill. 

You can get reductions on your council tax if you are disabled, live alone or have a low or no income, but every property is applicable for a charge. 

Do you have to pay council tax when renovating a property?

The answer is potentially. If you are having major structural change or repairs that make the home uninhabitable, then yes you can have an exemption for the period of the process. However, if you are just having some repairs or renovations that can be carried out while you still inhabit the property then no you cannot be exempt, but you can apply for a discount to your bill. The repairs can be if you are having any roof repairs, foundation repairs, rebuilding of external walls or a chimney, replacement of floors or internal walls that are not partitions. 

Do you have to pay bills on an empty property?

Yes, even though the property is empty, you have to pay the daily standing charge for keeping the property connected to the mains network for gas and electric. For the water, if you can supply a council tax exemption copy, then they can exempt you from this bill at least. You have to also hold vacant property insurance. It can be hard to find insurers for this, but there are ones out there, and you will have to pay a monthly premium.

Final Thoughts

A property can become unoccupied for many reasons, with the death of the sole occupant being the most common. In all cases, inform the insurance provider of the situation, and they should advise on your options to keep the property insured whilst empty.  

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