Are you the landlord of a residential property, currently sitting empty? If so, there might be some confusion regarding your council tax. Property ownership can be complicated, and there’s a big ‘grey area’ when it comes to an unoccupied property. Paying your council tax is something you cannot avoid. With that in mind, the easy answer to this question is yes!

Despite a few exceptional circumstances, landlords are generally liable for paying council tax on empty properties. So that you know when you should foot the bill, we’ll cover all of the council tax rules and responsibilities a landlord should be keeping an eye on.

What is council tax?

Council tax is a payment that goes directly to your local council. The council will use this payment to fund services for the community, like rubbish collection and street lighting. In most cases, this payment can even go to the improvement and maintenance of public buildings.

Generally, council tax is paid by the person living at a property, even if they’re renting. So, this leaves the question: what do you do when the property is empty?

Do you have to pay council tax on an empty property? 

Unfortunately, landlords do – in most cases – have to pay the council tax on an empty property. As there is no resident at home to pay, the responsibility will fall to you.

In the past, landlords could receive quite the discount on their council tax bill if the property was empty and unfurnished. But with the housing crisis going from bad to worse, empty properties are penalised. Your council tax bill could be doubled or tripled, the longer your rented property remains without tenants.

Of course, paying council tax depends on the rules and regulations of your local council. This changes everywhere, but you should be in the know about the latest guidelines. This protects you from financial penalties and enables you to access much-needed discounts if you fall within an exceptional circumstance.

How much council tax do you have to pay?

The usual council tax bill is calculated following various factors; including your home’s valuation band, the council charge for the band and if you qualify for a discount or exemption. Your home’s valuation band isn’t fixed, either. It can change depending on whether your property is altered, split or converted.

It’s essential to bear in mind that, generally, your council tax bill is calculated as though two people were living in the home. It follows a two-person rule.

At the moment, if you are a landlord with an empty property sitting for a great length of time, you could face a premium charge of up to 200%. This is a steep cost to handle, and one reason why many landlords court tenants as soon as one lease is finished.

Can I avoid the council tax payment?

As we’ve mentioned previously, in certain exceptional circumstances, the council tax bill could be discounted or negated entirely. Unfortunately, these circumstances do tend to be rare! People usually know about the following discounts or exemptions:

  • 25% discount if you live alone, or with children under 18
  • Potential reduction for tenants on benefits or who fall under the ‘low pay’ threshold
  • 100% discount for students in full-time education

For landlords, it’s a little more complicated, but there is a sum of exceptional circumstances you may qualify for. Here, you don’t have to shell out the expense of council tax on an empty property.

  • Refurbishment: A local council may be willing to discount some of your council tax if your property is empty because it’s being refurbished. Of course, this depends on why your property is undergoing renovation and the personal choice of your council.
  • Inhabitable: In extreme cases, your property may be completely uninhabitable. Whether damaged by fire, flood, electricity or asbestos, you may qualify for a reduced council bill on the empty property that remains. But you must prove that potential tenants couldn’t possibly live there, first.
  • Death: If a landlord or property owner has recently died, and you’re the next of kin, you don’t have to pay council tax on the empty property until a six-month probate period goes by.
  • Short-term: Is your property lying empty only for a short while? You may be able to avoid paying entirely. Some councils offer a form of one-month tax relief after a lease is ended, but after this grace period, you will have to pay the bill.

Choose CIA Landlords to help find you unoccupied property insurance

Ultimately, yes, landlords do have to pay council tax on empty properties. There are very few scenarios in which you can avoid this responsibility. Are you concerned about your unoccupied property? Consider investing in unoccupied property insurance for your peace of mind. CIA Landlord Insurance has a range of expertise in insurance and cover, ensuring that – even when unoccupied – your empty property is safe from damages. You don’t want to be paying for repairs, along with your council tax!

There are plenty of different options of insurance for landlords too, if your requirements are particularly unique – just get in touch with CIA Landlords today to find out more. Call 01788 818 670, request a callback online, or get yourself a personalised quote.

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