Plans to squeeze landlords over empty properties
Absent landlords could be hit in the pocket under tough new rules being considered to tackle empty housing.
Under the proposed changes, penalties could be quadrupled for the worst offenders in an attempt to force owners to get their properties on the market.
Figures revealed earlier this year showed Easington had 220 long-term vacant homes, the third highest number of in the county, closely followed by fifth placed Horden, which had 185.
The SR8 postcode area, which includes both villages, also had the third largest number of empty dwellings, with a combined total of 505.
Coun Alan Napier, deputy leader of the council and cabinet member for resources, said: “The government has provided legislation to help deal with long-term empty properties.
“The policy is designed to motivate owners to bring these homes back into use, which will boost the supply of affordable properties available to rent in the county.
“However, it is important that we seek views on the potential impact of the changes.
“The feedback we receive during the consultation will be fully considered when making final decisions on the empty property premium.”
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Currently, anyone responsible for a ‘long-term empty’ property, defined as ‘unoccupied and unfurnished for more than two years’ can be stung with an extra 50% on their council tax bill.
The power to do this was implemented in April 2013 and is credited with slashing the number of dwellings in this category by a third in just six months.
Under plans being considered by the council, following the introduction of new government guidelines, this would be increased to 100 per cent for homes left empty for between two and five years, doubling bills.
And a further penalty of up to 200 per cent could also be added for any property which has been vacant for more than five years.
Similar plans were proposed in February by the council’s opposition Liberal Democrat group, which claimed absent landlords could be squeezed for as much as £1.5million.
Consultation on the latest plans is now open and is due to run until October 6 – visit http://durham.gov.uk/consultation to find out more.