Reading Borough Council is to consider proposals to reduce council tax discount on empty or temporarily unoccupied properties in the town as part of an on-going drive to encourage owners to bring unused homes back into use.
At the moment local Council's must charge at least 50%, and up to 90%, of the full council tax rates on second homes. In Reading, the Council currently charges 90%. Changes in Central Government legislation however mean that from April 2013 every local authority will be able to charge the same amount of Council Tax on an empty property as an occupied one.
Under proposals being put before the next meeting of the Council's Cabinet, the Council Tax discount on second homes would be reduced from 10% to 5% in Reading. The Council is not proposing to remove the discount altogether as it could lead owners failing to report second homes.
The December 3rd Cabinet meeting will also consider the following proposals:
" Where a property is empty for two years or more, charge the owner 150% of the full Council Tax rate
" For unoccupied properties which are undergoing /or in need of major structural repair, reduce the discount from 12 months at 100% to 12 Months at 50%.
" Where a property is empty and unfurnished, reduce the discount from 6 months at 100% to 1 month at 100%.
Reading Borough Council Leader Jo Lovelock said: 'The Government have introduced technical changes to current Council Tax arrangements which give the Council some flexibilities around what is charged to empty properties and second homes. If adopted, these proposals will support the Council's overall aim of encouraging owners of empty properties to bring them back into use as quickly as possible, which is particularly important in a town like Reading where the demand for homes is very high.
'Bringing long-term empty properties onto the market is particularly beneficial to local communities where they can, in some instances, become a real blight on the local area and bring with them associated problems, including anti social behaviour.'
If agreed by Cabinet on December 3rd, subject to final approval by Full Council in January, the proposed changes will come into effect from April 2013.