Many of us remember the days when the landlord of an unfurnished rental property would automatically be awarded up to three months grace on Council Tax if the property was unoccupied for any period of time.
Over recent years during continued cut backs, councils have been given the autonomy to decide on their own rules surrounding this topic. In some boroughs in an attempt to reduce the number of empty properties in their area, the councils have charged the landlords with an unoccupied property and no tenancy in place, as much as 150% of the standard Council Tax. Some councils no longer give any free period to landlords, charging even if the property is empty for just one night.
If a tenant vacates their rental property before the end of the tenancy period, the council will apply any free period to the tenant, until such time as the tenancy is spent. At this point, if there is any free period remaining, it will be continued to the landlord.
Landlords should be aware of what the rules are about Council Tax and free periods in their area and need to plan for this in their budgeting.
If a tenant moves out of their rental property without providing notice to the landlord and the landlord has to apply to the county court for vacant possession of the property, the landlord can be billed for any Council Tax owing for the period. You can appeal such a decision, but invariably the court will order the landlord to pay. Councils act very quickly in these cases which can result in landlords be issued with County Court Judgements if they do not respond and pay on time.
We have established the following rules about free periods with our local councils:
North West Leicestershire District Council
Properties that are unoccupied and unfurnished are entitled to a one month discount of 100% every six months of occupied tenancy.
South Derbyshire District Council
A property will have 100% relief from the first time it became unoccupied and substantially unfurnished. This will last for a period of 3 months after which a full charge becomes payable. This relief does not commence again if the ownership of the property changes within this period or if the property is occupied for less than 6 weeks.
Tamworth Borough Council
Empty and unfurnished properties. There is now a 100% discount for up to two months after which a full charge will be made.
Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council
You have a one month council tax exemption. This starts from the date your tenants leave the property, whether their tenancy has expired or not. You may only be entitled to a proportion of the exemption as it is property related. After one month, you will have to pay the full rate.
North Warwickshire Borough Council
From 1st April 2013, domestic properties that are unoccupied and unfurnished and are no longer subject to a council tax exemption (known as long term empty properties) will be charged 100% council tax.