Empty property Council Tax exemption consultation

Worthing Borough Council currently allows an exemption from Council Tax, for a maximum of one month for properties that are empty. It also allows other exemptions which are listed below the consultation.

The Council is considering removing the one month exemption from Council Tax for these empty properties.

The income from your Council Tax is divided up with just over 12p in every pound (12.41%) being kept by Worthing Borough Council, and the rest going to West Sussex County Council and the Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner.

During the current financial year the Council allowed a maximum of one month exemption when a property becomes unoccupied and unfurnished. The number of properties awarded the exemption is constantly changing but as at October 2022 there were 38 empty properties in Worthing with a one-month exemption awarded and the average discount received by each household was £130. The exemption cost both Councils and the Police a total of about £60,000 in lost income each year.

Other Councils such as Adur, Chichester, Horsham, Mid Sussex, and Brighton & Hove do not allow this discount and Crawley only allows it for 7 days.

Removing this exemption will allow both Councils and the Police to keep more of their Council Tax income and it is hoped that it will reduce the number of empty properties by encouraging landlords to find new tenants quickly.

The Council would like to know if you think this exemption and lost income should continue or not.

The Council is considering ending the 100% discount from 1st April 2023.

For those that want more detail before making a decision you can find additional information and examples below the questionnaire which follows.

Closing date for your comments: midnight Monday 2nd January 2023

Additional Information on reasons For and Against removing the exemption

Landlords, tenants and owners will have to pay Council Tax even when their property becomes empty, instead of having up to one month free.

Worthing has a shortage of homes and it is hoped that reducing the vacancy period by removing the exemption will help encourage a quicker turnaround between one occupant and the next.

Councils have lost a considerable amount of income from the government in recent years and are having to find other ways to raise income and reduce costs so that they can continue providing services. This exemption reduces the income kept by both Councils and Police.

The exemption is difficult to administer and often leads to disputes about dates between tenants, owners and Council officers. Removing the exemption will free up time so officers can use their skills to focus on what they are best at and what is most important - helping people.

In which circumstances does the Council currently allow an exemption of Council Tax for empty properties?

  • The unoccupied property is owned or rented by a charity
  • The property is unoccupied because the Council Tax payer has passed away and the executors are waiting for the grant of probate
  • The property has been kept empty for a minister of religion
  • The property has been repossessed
  • The first month that a property becomes vacant

Only the last example is being considered for change after the consultation. The first four exemptions will still apply

Examples of when the current one month exemption applies:

  • The tenant in a rented property moves out because their tenancy has ended and there is a short period before a new tenant moves in
  • You buy a property but don't move into it straight away
  • You sell your property but actually move out of it before the sale completes

Only one period of up to one month can be awarded when no Council Tax is charged and this sometimes leads to disagreements about when someone actually moved out of the property.

Example:

Mrs Small owns a property that she rents to Ms Friar. The tenancy ended on 30th September 2022, but Ms Friar says that she actually moved out on 25th September 2022.

Mrs Small's new tenant is Mr Ahmed but his tenancy doesn't start until 1st November 2022, and this is the date that he becomes responsible for the Council Tax.

The owner Mrs Small is responsible for the Council Tax for the period in between her tenants. She considers that she should be awarded the 100% discount from 1st to 31st October 2022 but because the tenant Ms Friar moved out on 25th September 2022 the discount is shared between them as follows:

  • The tenant Ms Friar has no Council Tax to pay from 25th to 30th September 2022
  • The owner Mrs Small has no Council Tax to pay from 1st to 24th October 2022, but has to pay Council Tax from 25th to 31st October 2022

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Page last updated: 25 November 2022

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