Empty homes

A long term empty property is a property which has been substantially unfurnished and unlived in for longer than 6 months.

Properties should not be left standing empty given the increased demand for housing in Tower Hamlets. Bringing empty properties back into residential use unlocks more housing for the local community.

Owners of long term empty properties may face:

  • additional repair costs,
  • a considerable loss in potential rental income, and
  • the Empty Homes Premium, which is a higher rate of Council Tax on properties that have been unoccupied and substantially unfurnished for 2 years or more.

Exempt properties

However, not all properties will be classed as an empty property as they may be exempt from Council Tax for a number of valid reasons for example:

  • homes left unoccupied by deceased persons,
  • a home left unoccupied by people who are receiving care, or
  • a home left empty by a member of the armed services

Second homes

Empty homes and second homes are distinct categories for the government, and they are treated differently for Council Tax purposes. Second homes are categorised separately and are defined as furnished properties. It can include holiday homes or properties where the owner occasionally stays, but their primary residence is elsewhere.

Even when second homes are fully furnished, owners may leave them vacant or fail to use them to their full potential. Currently, second homes in Tower Hamlets are liable for full Council Tax and owners do not receive any discounts.

Under the General London Council (General Powers) Act 1973 and Deregulation Act 2015, Londoners are also restricted to letting out their property for a maximum of 90 days in a calendar year unless planning permission is obtained.

Empty Homes Premium

Most empty properties in Tower Hamlets are temporarily vacant and often brought back into use before the Empty Homes Premium is applied. Owners who delay the return of their property to use can face increased financial penalties.

The Local Government Finance Act 2012 gives local billing authorities the discretion to increase Council Tax on certain empty dwellings through the Empty Homes Premium.

If a property has been empty for 2 years or more, a premium of 100% will be applied to Council Tax bills. This means owners will pay double the rate of Council Tax.

Advice and Guidance

The No Use Empty Initiative is the longest running empty property initiative in the UK, delivered in partnership by Kent County Council and its 12 district councils. It has returned a large number of long-term empty properties to use since 2005.

The advice and guidance section on their website includes useful information for owners who need assistance in returning their empty property to use.

See more information about Council Tax and Empty Properties