New legislation will enable local authorities to double council tax rates on properties that have been empty for two years or more.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government says it hopes these new powers will see thousands of empty properties across England being brought back into use.
These increased powers were first announced in last year’s Budget. Councils will be able to use the additional funds raised to keep council tax levels down for others living in the area.
The number of empty properties has fallen in recent years. There are currently 200,000 long-term empty dwelling in England, compared to 300,000 in 2010.
This number fell dramatically following similar intervention in 2013, where councils were given powers to charge a 50 per cent premium on council tax bills. The Government hopes another hike in bills may produce a similar effect.
The MHCLG says this legislation is one of a range of measures designed to “fix the broken housing market”.
Local Government Minister Rishi Sunak says: “It is simply wrong that while there are 200,000 long-term empty properties across the country, thousands of families are desperate for a secure place to call home.
“This new power will equip councils with the tools they need to encourage owners of long-term empty properties to bring them back into use.”
The Government has published guidance alongside this new legislation that makes it clear that councils should not penalise the owners of homes that are genuinely on the market for rent or sale.
There are also exemptions in place for homes that are empty for a specific purpose, such as the occupant going into care. Discounts will also apply where homes are empty due to special circumstances such as fire, flooding or hardship. Council tax exemptions already apply for homes that are empty while waiting for probate to be granted.