Since April 2013 Local Authorities in England have been given delegated powers under Section 11B of the Local Government Finance Act 1992. This allows them to increase the Council Tax charge by up to 150% on some long-term empty properties.
What is it for ?
The Empty Property Premium was introduced by Parliament as an ‘incentive’ to push empty property back in to use and local authorities quickly jumped on the chance of the extra income. It’s not always possible however for owners to do so and they end up paying the extra on a property from which they receive no income.
The Premium applies to any property in England which has been both unoccupied and substantially unfurnished for a period of 2 years or more.
Independent of the Owner
The Empty Property Premium is based on the property and is independent of the owners. This means that the you can purchase a property and become liable for the Empty Property Premium if it has already been unoccupied and substantially unfurnished for more than 2 years (or at a later date if it reaches a 2 year period of being unoccupied and substantially unfurnished).
Once of the reasons for the Premium being independent of the owner is to stop ownership being transferred to avoid the charge.
Can I contest it with a Valuation Tribunal or Ombudsman?
If the Local Authority has made the decision to apply Empty Property Premiums within their area then a Valuation Tribunal have no powers to question this decision. A Valuation Tribunal can only intervene, under Section 16 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992, if the property has been wrongly attributed to being a long-term empty property (and therefore it doesn’t fall within the relevant criteria).
The Local Government Ombudsman cannot become involved in situations where the Valuation Tribunal has jurisdiction – for example liability disputes or discount/exemption entitlement. They can only get involved where an issue has been raised with the Local Authority and their complaint process has been utilised without you being satisfied with their reply. They are unable to rule on a decision where it has been made under legislation but they may be able to help with other issues, such as delays in the Local Authority dealing with your case or making errors whilst doing so.
Section 13A reductions
Where a person is in hardship due to paying a Council Tax charge then they have the legal right to make a request under Section 13A of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 (as amended) for the balance to be reduced or written-off. This request has to be considered and is subject to a Valuation Tribunal appeal.
Need expert Council Tax help or assistance ?
This article is solely the view of LGFA92, the Council Tax agents and experts, based on our interpretation of legislation. Your local authority is free to dispute this view. A binding decision may require the intervention of a valuation tribunal.
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