Council tax is set to double on second homes in Bristol under plans in the city council’s budget.
Bills will also be twice as much for the owners of homes left empty for one year instead of the current two, if the proposals get the go-ahead at full council in February.
Bristol City Council wants to take advantage of the Government’s Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill which is currently going through Parliament.
The new law, if approved, aims to encourage empty properties to be brought back into use for the local community and is expected to come into force from April 2024.
It would give local authorities the power to add premiums of up to 100 per cent on council tax for homes that are substantially furnished but are not the owner’s main place of residence – commonly known as second homes – on top of the council tax that is already charged.
Bristol mayor Marvin Rees’s budget also proposes to double council tax on properties empty and unfurnished after just one year – half the current time limit.
If the measures go through, it would give anyone affected a full year’s notice.
A report to cabinet next Tuesday (24 January) said the second-home premium was expected to bring in about £3million extra every year to the council.
The local authority is making cuts and savings as it faces a £20.3million funding shortfall in 2023/24 and even more beyond that.
It said records indicated Bristol had about 1,500 properties left empty between one and two years and about 300 over two years, which are already subject to a premium.
The number of second homes is not currently monitored as they already incur normal council tax bills, but estimates suggest there are roughly 2,500, the report said.
It said: “The introduction of a premium for second homes might encourage council tax payers to explore whether their property could be transferred to business rates, and thereby benefit from small business rate relief as a way of avoiding the higher charge.
“From April 2023, the Valuation Office Agency will only rate domestic properties for business rates if they are available for short term lets for at least 140 days in total over the current and previous tax years and have actually been let for short periods totalling 70 days in the last 12 months.
“This should ensure that any properties transferring from council tax to business rates relate to genuine circumstances where the property is being utilised for business purposes in accordance with legislation.
“Adopting council tax premiums on empty properties is one way of incentivising property owners to bring those properties back into use at the earliest opportunity.”
The report said the Government’s bill included provisions for the secretary of state to exclude certain homes from the premiums or specify a different percentage limit of 100 per cent, which would reduce the bills and the amount of money the council earns.
Conservative-run South Gloucestershire Council is proposing the same increases in its budget.
Credit: Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporting Service