Empty and second home owners will face paying more

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OWNERS of empty homes around Bognor Regis could pay hundreds of pounds of extra council tax a year.

New rules brought in by Arun District Council will see the vacant properties attract a premium to their usual council tax bill.

Cllr Norman Dingemans, the council’s cabinet member for customer services, has set the levy at the 50 per cent maximum allowed by the government.

The charge will apply to housing which stays empty and mainly unfurnished for more than two years even if it is being repaired to bring it back into use.

Using average Band D figures from this year, the extra annual charge will be £750.

There were more than 600 empty homes in the district last October. They can attract squatters, vandalism and anti-social behaviour.

Arun has also taken advantage of being allowed by the government to increase its charges on the district’s second and holiday homes. They numbered 1,612 last October.

Cllr Dingemans said the changes would help the council at a time of tough financial decisions. “Central government has brought in these measures to assist local authorities in our efforts to keep council tax bills in general as low as possible and to further focus on improving our front line services,” he said.

The measures will take effect at the start of the new council year in April.

It is not known how much extra the charges will generate because the number of affected properties and their council tax bands fluctuates.

A public consultation about the new measures took place from October 8 to November 18 last year. The changes were approved by councillors earlier this month.

Members agreed to remove the discount on second and holiday homes, replace the exemption for unoccupied and unfurnished properties with a discount and charge an empty-home premium for those properties which have been unoccupied for more than two years.

Since 2004, second and holiday homes have received a ten per cent discount from Arun.

That will disappear to leave their owners facing the full charge and paying £150 extra a year for a Band D property.

Those who have unoccupied and mainly unfurnished properties which are being being repaired will lose their exemption and face a 50 per cent council tax charge for the first year only.

After that, the building will attract the full council tax bill for the following year.

It will be the same for unoccupied and mainly unfurnished homes which are not being repaired.

Arun is unable to charge the empty-home premium on some annexes and properties owned by members of the armed forces.

Affected owners will be contacted by the council in the next few weeks. Other exemptions will remain the same.