Consideration was given to a report that made recommendations on the changes to the levying of Council Tax premiums with effect from 1 April 2024 and also provided confirmation of the Council Tax discounts already in place.
The report also highlighted the changes contained within the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill currently progressing through Parliament which would impact on Council Tax relating to second homes and long term empty dwellings.
In the ensuing discussion, a number of questions of clarity were raised that included:
(a) A Member queried the status of empty properties that were subject to Probate. In reply, it was confirmed that such circumstances were covered within Council Tax Exemption Schemes that were already in operation nationally;
(b) In response to questions relating to specific definitions contained within the presented agenda report, the Head of Revenues and Benefits confirmed that a ‘second home’ was confirmed as a property that was not the owner’s main residence but was furnished. In addition, whilst there was no specific definition of ‘substantially unfurnished’, for a property to be deemed furnished, it must be fit for occupation and include items such as beds, tables and chairs and white goods;
(c) A Member sought information on how many Second Homes and Air BnB properties were located within the Borough area. In reply, the Leader confirmed this to be 650 second homes which, in the event of recommendation part 2 being approved, would generate an extra £157,000 in Council Tax for West Devon Borough Council;
(d) A Member queried as to whether there was any evidence of how much of an impact the double Council Tax levy would make in deterring the ownership of second homes, thereby releasing properties to be homes for local people. Officers responded that there had been no detailed research or analysis into this subject;
(e) In view of the Council having declared a Housing Crisis, a Member enquired as to whether it would be Council policy to direct the additional funds raised from Council Tax payments, to a programme of developing new affordable housing. In reply, the Leader advised that this would be a matter for the next Council administration to consider;
(f) Members were keen to close existing loopholes that permitted Air BnB’s to not only avoid all quality standards required as part of other Tourist Board accreditation schemes, but also to ensure that these properties were returned to Council Tax payment and not Business Rates liability as soon as possible.
It was then proposed by Cllr Jory, seconded by Cllr Edmonds and upon being submitted to the Meeting was declared to be CARRIED and “RESOLVED that:
1. with effect from 1 April 2023, Council Tax discounts be adopted as follows:
- The discount for unoccupied and substantially unfurnished dwellings be 100% for a maximum period of 1 month;
- The discount for unoccupied and substantially unfurnished dwellings for 1 month to 2 years be zero;
- The discount for dwellings which are vacant and require major repair work to render them habitable be 50% for a maximum period of 12 months;
- The discount for unoccupied furnished dwellings (second homes) be zero;
- An empty homes premium of an additional 100% be levied on dwellings that have remained unoccupied and substantially unfurnished for at least two years, but less than 5 years;
- An empty homes premium of an additional 200% be levied on dwellings that have remained unoccupied and substantially unfurnished for at least five years, but less than 10 years; and
- An empty homes premium of an additional 300% be levied on dwellings that have remained unoccupied and substantially unfurnished for at least 10 years.
2. subject to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill receiving Royal Assent, from 1 April 2024, the current 100% premium for dwellings which are unoccupied and substantially unfurnished be levied after a period of one year.
3. subject to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill receiving Royal Assent, from 1 April 2024, a premium of 100% be levied on all dwellings which are unoccupied and substantially furnished (second homes).”