Watford Borough Council to crack down on empty homes

Did you know that more than 11,000 homes across the UK have been empty for 10 years or more… That’s a fact according to data – obtained through a Freedom of Information request by the Liberal Democrats.

Even more startling the figures, from 276 local councils, showed there are more than 216,000 homes across the country which have been empty for six months or more.

Lib Dem leader Vince Cable has called it a “national scandal”, at a time when “the homelessness crisis is worsening”.

So, is Watford Borough Council‘s move to double the amount of council tax charged on long-term empty homes going far enough?

Since 2013, local authorities in England have had the power to charge a council tax premium of up to 50% on long-term empty dwellings – these are homes that have been unoccupied and substantially unfurnished for two years or more. This premium is in addition to the usual council tax charge that applies to that property.

Watford Borough Council currently applies a 50% premium on long term empty homes but agreed at a meeting of their Cabinet to rapidly increase these charges. These charges will now be the following:

  • From April 2019 onwards to charge a 100% premium
  • From April 2020 onwards to increase the premium to 200% for properties that have been empty for more than 5 years.
  • From April 2021 onwards to increase the premium to 300% for properties that have been empty for more than 10 years. Long term empty properties have been highlighted by charities such as Shelter as a contributing factor to the national housing crisis.

Elected Mayor of Watford Peter Taylor said: “Watford doesn’t have as many empty homes as other areas but we are still determined to take this very issue seriously. Leaving properties empty for years is something we want to discourage. We are using the powers we have to encourage people to do the right thing and bring empty properties back into use, so that there are more homes available.”

  • As at 7 January, 2019, Watford Borough Council has 63 properties that have been empty over 2 years.
  • The proposed changes will come into effect from 1 April 2019.