Owning a property can be both a blessing and, let’s face it, a financial responsibility. One of the many bills you’ll have to keep on top of is, of course, council tax — the money we pay to fund everything from education to waste collection.
But what happens when your property is left empty? Suddenly, you’re forking out for council tax charges with no one benefitting from local services. Doesn’t sound great, does it?
Fear not! In this guide we answer the question how to avoid paying council tax on an empty property and then delve into some savvy strategies to help you either avoid or keep those council tax payments on your unoccupied property to a minimum.
1. Get Your Head Around It
Before we reveal the tricks of the trade, let’s get our heads around the basics first. If a property isn’t your main home and it stands empty — unfortunately for you — usually you’re charged the full Council Tax. But there are exceptions and loopholes that might just save you some cash in the long run.
2. Council Tax Charges For Empty Properties
Here’s how much you could expect to cough up:
2.1 Up to 24 months
For this period, expect to pay 100% Council Tax charge.
2.2 Empty less than five years
Now we’re entering 200% territory — yep, double what you were paying before.
2.3 Empty between five and ten years
Ouch! You’ll now be paying triple – so 300%.
2.4 Empty ten years or more
Brace yourself: for this length of time, it will be four times as expensive – so 400%!
3. The Strategies
3.1 Property Guardian Magic
Imagine being able to put your feet up and avoid council tax payments on a property you’re not even using. Well, in the magical land of property guardianship, someone can do just that. A property guardian acts as a modern-day caretaker. They live in your empty property.
They keep it secure. And here’s the best bit: they take responsibility for council tax.
You save on council tax and maintenance costs while they benefit from reduced rent. It’s a win-win situation — just make sure you find reputable property guardian services to stay above board.
3.2 Rent it out
Why have your property sitting there doing nothing when it could be generating income? Renting out your empty property does two things: puts money in your pocket and makes the tenant responsible for council tax charges.
It’s an easy solution that keeps your empty home afloat and turns it into something that actually makes money.
3.3 Discounts and Exemptions – Your Secret Weapons
Could your local council be the knight in shining armour you’ve always needed? Some councils give discounts or exemptions under certain circumstances.
For example, one could give a 100% discount for the first month a property is empty, followed by 50% off for another five months.
You’ll need to get friendly with your local council to find out what perks they’re offering to save yourself from these pricey payments.
3.4 Major repairs and structural changes
If your property is in the midst of a huge makeover, you could be due a discount on council tax. Buildings that are being repaired or altered, for instance by having walls rebuilt, could be eligible for one.
It might be tricky to get one of these discounts though, as the work has to be “major” — so fitting a new kitchen is unlikely to cut it.
Again, you should contact your local council to see if you qualify for the perk. You’ll need their permission before you can start any work anyway.
3.5 Legal loopholes – not cheating, just playing smart
Loopholes are usually frowned upon but when it comes to avoiding council tax charges they’re an acceptable bit of strategy.
Homes that have been empty for more than two years can face something called a “premium” charge from councils.
But there’s a get-out clause: the premium doesn’t apply if the empty home is an annex or if you’re in the armed forces and need to move into armed forces accommodation for work – although we don’t recommend trying this one without actually needing it.
And remember, just because something’s legal doesn’t always mean it’s ethically right – so only try this option if you really deserve the exemption.
3.6 Probate and inheritance – a reprieve
Inheriting property can be both a blessing and a bureaucratic nightmare. If you’ve inherited one and are in the process of selling it, there’s some good news: you won’t have to pay council tax until after you’ve obtained probate.
Get probate and you’ll also receive six months’ worth of exemption if the property remains unoccupied and stays in the name of the deceased.
3.7 Special circumstances – when rules bend
Under certain circumstances your home may be exempt from council tax altogether – such as if someone is living elsewhere because they’re serving time in prison (but not if they’ve been put away for failing to pay a fine or council tax), if the person has moved into a care home or hospital, or if the property is derelict.
Don’t worry! You have a lot of options. With a little bit strategy, some clever moves, and maybe even a helpful property guardian, you can start making the most out of it.
So take charge! It’s time your empty property becomes useful instead of a burden. Go explore and let it become a wellspring of savings. Good luck!