Second home owners to pay double council tax in Bath and North East Somerset

There are currently 858 homes that will face the increased costs Credit: LDRS.

Second home owners in council are set to pay twice as much council tax after plans to double it were unanimously approved by Bath and North East Somerset.

People who own a substantially furnished home that is only periodically occupied and does not have anyone registered at the property for council tax purposes will be hit by a 100% premium, when the new plans comes into effect in April 2025.

This means around 858 homes will be affected - unless the properties are sold, rented out or moved into permanently.

The council estimates the plans, which were approved on Thursday 30 November, will generate £1.84m in extra funding per year.

At a full meeting of the council, Mark Elliott, council cabinet member for resources, said: “The shortage of housing puts pressure on prices and means that ordinary local people are priced out of the housing market altogether.

"This change will encourage properties back on the market by discouraging second home ownership.

“For those who choose to own second homes still, it would mean that they make a higher contribution to vital local services at a time when those services are under severe pressure.”

Councillors voted unanimously to approve the change, although three councillors who own second homes in the council area themselves had to leave the chamber for the debate.

Seconding the motion, Bathavon South councillor Matt McCabe said: “Councils across the South West have been calling for this for years so very happy that the government has finally moved to allow us to levy this on second homes."

The power to levy the extra tax was given to councils in the Levelling-Up and Regeneration Act 2023, which became law in October. It also allows councils to charge a 100% council tax premium on homes left empty for over a year.

Currently, empty residential properties in Bath and North East Somerset only pay the 100% council tax premium once they have been unoccupied for two years, with an even higher premium for homes empty longer than five years.

Council tax for those on the lowest incomes will now be scrapped

At the meeting, councillors unanimously approved charging the premium once a property was empty for a year.

Currently, 162 empty properties currently pay the 100% premium but after April 2025, this will rise to 340 properties.

Tim Warren, leader of the Conservative group on the council, said he “totally agreed” on getting empty homes back into use but asked what would be done about probate. Mr Elliott said: “They would be given special dispensation.”

Councillors also unanimously agreed changes to council tax support in a move to “improve fairness” of the system, which gives a discount on council tax to the lowest income households. 

The unfairness in the current system was raised by Bathwick councillor Toby Simon, who volunteers with Citizens Advice.

He told councillors: “If someone lived in private rented sector housing, they were getting less council tax reduction, despite having higher rents to pay than if they had been in social housing. And if they were getting the childcare element, it tended to wipe out their council tax reduction.”

Mr Elliott added: “I want to be clear that there will be people adversely affected as well as those positively affected by the change, but there will be more than twice as many people positively affected — 2,600 — as those adversely affected — just under 1,300.”

A public consultation was carried out on the proposals, which included writing to everyone affected by the change.

People on the lowest incomes will also now receive a 100% council tax discount — meaning they do not need to pay anything at all — rather than the previous 90% discount.

Credit: John, Wimperis, Local Democracy Reporting Service