Tax premiums agreed for owners of second homes and empty properties

Councillors have agreed higher tax premiums for owners of second homes and long-term empty properties in Babergh and Mid Suffolk

Councillors at Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils have agreed higher tax premiums for owners of second homes and long-term empty properties, as part of a raft of measures to bring more homes back into use.

There are almost 600 empty properties in Babergh and more than 680 in Mid Suffolk, which councillors are keen to see used to meet growing housing need.

The councils already impose a council tax premium on the owners of properties that are empty and unfurnished for two years or longer.

However, under new legislation, the councils would be able to target empty properties after just one year from April 2024 – and impose a levy on second home owners from April 2025.

At meetings this week, both councils agreed a new joint policy that will see the owners of properties left empty for a year or more paying double, with a premium of up to 100% from April 2024.

Properties empty for five years or more would see their council tax bills treble with a premium of up to 200%.

Owners of properties left empty for 10 years would face quadrupled bills, with a premium of up to 300%.

Owners of 576 second homes in Babergh and 542 in Mid Suffolk will see their council tax bill double from April 2025.

The definition of a second home for council tax purposes would be a property which there is ‘no one resident’ but that is ‘substantially furnished’. 

There will be exceptions, in line with Government policy, expected to include properties being actively marketed for sale or rent for a limited period, houses going through probate, caravan pitches or houseboat moorings.

Cabinet member for housing at Babergh District Council, Cllr Jessie Carter said:

“Each empty property is a potential home, and we must actively encourage landlords to bring them back into circulation to help relieve the pressure on existing housing stock.  The policy also means that homeowners pay their fair share towards council services.”

Cllr Richard Winch, cabinet member for housing and property at Mid Suffolk District Council said:

“Empty homes can blight neighbourhoods and attract antisocial behaviour and crime.  We want to support communities, and put more homes back on the market.  This policy also ensures that those who choose to own second homes make a higher contribution to local services at a time when they are under pressure."

Initial high-level analysis suggests the proposals for empty home premiums could generate an extra £300k in Babergh and £500k in Mid Suffolk next year.

Premiums for second home owners in 2025 could net an additional £1.1m for Babergh and £1m for Mid Suffolk.  

The districts, however, only keep a fraction of the council tax they collect (less than 10%), with the bulk going towards the cost of services provided by Suffolk County Council and the Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner.

The premiums are just one way that the councils are encouraging empty properties back into use.   There is also information on the councils’ websites about Houses 4 Homes – the councils’ empty homes initiative. It offers owners a range of ways to bring properties back to use, including:

  • providing loans
  • landlord lettings and income assistance
  • construction support

Find out more about Houses 4 Homes on the councils' websites at: Empty homes - Babergh District Council and Empty homes - Mid Suffolk District Council.

The councils also offer a free lettings service and guaranteed rent scheme to private sector landlords.

Central Suffolk Lettings works with landlords to increase access to good quality homes in the private rented sector to eligible tenants. 

Find out more about Central Suffolk Lettings on the councils' websites at: Central Suffolk Lettings: FREE Letting Services - Babergh District Council and Central Suffolk Lettings: FREE Letting Services - Mid Suffolk District Council.

Empty home with Cllr Winch and Cllr Carter