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Empty houses to face tax bill rise
LANDLORDS who fail to find tenants for their empty properties in Worcester could soon be facing a 150 per cent council tax bill.
The move, which is set to come into force next April, is aimed at encouraging owners of the city’s 476 ‘long-term’ empty homes to help address chronic housing problems.
The ruling, which is going out for public consultation this autumn, will apply to landlords with a house that has been empty for two years or longer.
Meanwhile, repossessed homes and properties which have been empty for between six months and two years are set to have their council tax discounts scrapped.
At the moment, banks and building societies pay no council tax on repossessed properties, and owners of long-term empty homes can apply for a 25 per cent reduction.
The changes will also affect people who designate a property a second home and in doing so get 25 per cent off their bills.
Under council proposals they will be ordered to pay the lot from next April.
The hard line changes by Worcester City Council is because bosses are being asked to come up with their own council tax benefit system by the Government.
The benefits system is administered by councils, all of which have been asked to come up with ideas to plug the shortfall.
The city council gets £6.7 million for administering the system across south Worcestershire, but the 10 per cent reduction leaves a £670,000 shortfall.
About 8,400 households in Worcester currently get help with their council tax, including students, pensioners, those on benefits or low incomes, and owners of empty homes.
But by law pensioners must be protected.
The Conservative-led cabinet says it will be seeking the views of as many residents as possible.
Councillor Andy Roberts , cabinet member for finance, said: “The consultation process is extremely important and an end decision will be made in November.”
Coun Richard Boorn, Labour’s finance spokesman, said: “A lot of the council’s income from grant funding and other revenue streams is drying up, which is starting to become a real problem.”
The authority will be consulting during September and October, and will take the decision to a vote at full council on November 27.