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Council Tax, Business Rates and Vacant Properties: What Are The Rules?

Council Tax, Business Rates and Vacant Properties: What Are The Rules?

Council tax and business rates are a fact of business and domestic life. But as targets to reduce numbers of vacant properties become more stringent, the rates on empty properties are fast rising – and exemption periods shrinking.

Could this affect your buy-to-let or business premises? Property Aspects Magazine asks Michael Knibbs, Managing Director of SafeSite Security Solutions how you can check that you are not violating the rules.


How Have The Rules Changed?

“Most properties will have vacant periods across their many years of use and owners of empty properties used to enjoy significant council tax and business rate discounts,” explains Michael.


“Because cash-strapped councils need to source additional funds plus meet targets to bring vacant properties back into use, a decisive increase in council tax and business rates has been the solution of choice for many councils”

Michael Knibbs, SafeSite Security Solutions


In many areas, tax rates have increased, whilst periods of exemption for vacant properties have been reduced.

“As every local authority is responsible for its own budget and changes, it’s essential to check to see what changes have been implemented,” suggests Michael.   “That way, you can take relevant action and identify any exemptions which apply to your property.”


The Vacancy Variation

“Whether the property is likely to be vacant for a short or long term can make a difference to amounts payable and discounts available.

Short-term savings:

  • Domestic property: some councils allow a 100% reduction in council tax for a period of one month (usually the maximum).
  • Business property: empty business premises are generally exempt from business rates for up to 3 months. Some councils extend this to 6 months for warehouse and industrial properties.”


Long-term costs

“When it comes to long-term vacancy, local councils have autonomy to significantly increase rates of tax due:

  • Domestic property: if empty for 2 years or more, councils could charge up to 100% council tax premium, as announced in 2017’s November budget.
  • Business premises: 100% business rates are payable as soon as the premises have been empty for 3 months or more.”


Time to Take Action

“If your property is going to become vacant,  the first action you should take is check the local authority website for information on business rates and council tax premiums, exemptions and extended discounts,” Michael recommends. “You should also talk to the relevant authority to discuss your individual situation or apply for discounts.”

“Once your property becomes vacant, the clock starts ticking so if you’ve been benefiting from a discount you are now no longer entitled to, this should be reported to the local authority within 21 days,” concludes Michael.  “Failure to do this could result in a penalty fine – on top of making up the payments.”

Property Aspects Magazine thanks Michael Knibbs for his contribution.


For an additional read, please visit Is CCTV Really Securing Your Vacant Property?