Cumberland Council plans to raise taxes on around 600 long-term empty properties next month.

It comes as a council tax rule change, being dubbed the ‘double council tax’, is set to come into force from April 1, 2024.

Central government confirmed that from that date, there will be stricter rules for some empty houses in England.

Council tax on homes that have been empty for a long time will double from next month, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said.

Councils in England will also be granted extra powers to charge more tax on second homes from April.

However, there will be some occasions where the new rules aren’t applied.

A house may be empty and not have to pay extra tax if:

  • A home has been inherited
  • A home is inhabitable due to renovations
  • A second home is not available to be lived in all year round due to planning restrictions.

Local government minister Simon Hoare said: “Long-term empty properties are shutting local families and young people out of the housing market as they are being denied the opportunity to rent or buy in their own community.

“So, we are taking action as part of our long-term plan for housing.”

He added: "That means delivering more of the right homes in the right places and giving councils more powers to help give local people the homes they need."

The plans come as numerous local governments across the UK have reported poor funds available for day-to-day services. Some, including Cumberland, have applied for exceptional financial support, which has come in the form of permission to sell capital assets.

Cumberland Council said on Thursday, March 15, that the empty homes policy is, in essence, aimed to encourage these properties to be brought back into use.

Data from the most recent census in 2021 reported that in the areas of former local governments Carlisle City, Copeland, and Allerdale, which form Cumberland Council, there were 11,890 unoccupied dwellings, and 114,295 occupied.

The council added that the law makes provision for local authorities to charge a premium on properties left empty and ‘substantially unfurnished’ for over a year, opposed to previous legislation that put it at two years.

Of all current unoccupied dwellings in the Cumberland Council area, 600 properties are subject to forthcoming tax premiums from April 1.

“This police is designed to encourage owners to bring houses back into use.

“It is estimated it could raise up to around £1million – though this would reduce if houses were brought back into use,” the council added.