By Charlotte Green, Local Democracy Reporter
PEOPLE who leave their properties empty for more than two years face being ‘punished’ with a huge council tax bill of up to 400 per cent in a bid to crackdown on the number of empty homes.
Under proposals approved by Tameside Council, the owners of long term empty dwellings face having to pay thousands more in tax, or bring it back in use.
It is thought this could eventually make an extra million pounds in council tax revenue a year.
For properties empty for two years, bosses have agreed to charge 200 per cent council tax, which increases to 300 per cent for five years and a staggering 400 per cent for houses empty for a decade or more.
Town hall chiefs also hope the extra costs will deter people from letting their properties fall into disrepair and become a magnet for vandalism.
However, the Conservative opposition said there was a range of reasons why homes remained empty – and feared it could ‘punish’ some residents.
For the most expensive properties, worth more than £320,000, owners could face bills of more than £13,000 a year if they remain unoccupied for ten years.
Even a band A dwelling left empty for two years will see bills double to more than £2,000.
The increases will be staggered over three years, commencing on April 1.
Discussing the proposals at a meeting of the borough’s cabinet, Audenshaw’s Cllr Oliver Ryan said: “I think these things have legs.
“We’re tackling the issue and we’re trying to bring those houses back into use.”
Council leader Brenda Warrington added: “The longer a property is empty, the more dilapidated it gets.”
It is hoped by hiking up the charges, people will be ‘incentivised’ to bring their properties back into use, officers say.
And it could be a huge boost for the town hall’s coffers.
The 200 per cent increase alone is estimated to bring in around £500,000 in revenue a year.
But Stalybridge South’s Cllr Doreen Dickinson, the deputy opposition leader, said: “I think we should be looking at the reasons why they are empty.
“If you went abroad for a job but wanted to live in it when you returned, or if you went into a care home. There are residents with these homes. For somebody like that it would punish.”
She added: “I totally understand the need for these homes but you can’t force people to give their homes up that they have paid for.
“I don’t think you can do something like that as a blanket policy without looking at the reasons.”
In Tameside, there are around 2,724 properties that are empty.
But of these 887 properties are exempt from council tax.
Figures held by the town hall reveal that a third of all empty properties are considered to be long term empty.
Of these, 62 have been empty for more than ten years, and 231 empty for between two and five years.
A total of 373 properties have been empty for more than two years and which could be occupied and which are currently liable to pay the current level of 150 per cent council tax.
Feedback from a public consultation into the proposals revealed that 21 per cent of participants agreed with the proposals but 59 per cent had concerns about the implementation of long-term property charges.