Saturday, 18 August 2018

"Buy-to-leave": how unoccupied 'empty homes' become 'second homes' to avoid council tax

New Zealand has a problem with second homes:
Futures Forum: A solution to our housing problems: ban sales of homes to foreigners
Futures Forum: The New Zealand 'experiment' comes to an end with banning non-residents from buying housing

As does the West Country:
Futures Forum: St Ives and seaside Britain: banning new second homes

Sidmouth is a very popular place to buy a bolt-hole:
Futures Forum: Sidmouth has the largest number of second home sales in East Devon

A new report from the campaigning charity Empty Homes highlights the problem: 
We campaign for more empty homes to be brought into use for people in housing need: Empty HomesThe staggering number of empty second homes in Cornwall revealed - Cornwall Live 

East Devon is not as bad as South Devon, but is not far behind: 

One in every 11 houses is a second home in part of Devon

Second homes get a huge discount on Council Tax

Annie Gouk
17 AUG 2018

One in every 11 residential properties in part of Devon is an unoccupied second home, new analysis has revealed. Official government figures show that 3,896 dwellings in the South Hams area were classed as “second homes” for council tax purposes as of October 2017.

This means that while they are unoccupied for most of the time, they are fully furnished and so aren’t officially considered “empty homes”, even though no one permanently lives there.

Since 2013, if a home is both substantially unfurnished and unoccupied for more than two years, the owner may have a premium added to their council tax of between 50% and 100%.  However, unoccupied "second homes" don't attract this premium, and their owners could even end up paying less. 
“Second homes” are eligible for a council tax discount of up to 50% - although it’s up to individual councils whether they apply this or not.

The government has in the past responded to suggestions that owners could avoid paying the premium by simply installing furniture in an otherwise empty home, insisting there is no evidence that councils are experiencing difficulties with avoidance.

Regardless, the fact remains that one in every 11 homes in South Hams is being left empty, despite being ready to live in.

Will McMahon, Director of the national campaigning charity Empty Homes, said: “Research has found ample evidence that ‘buy-to-leave’ is occurring in high value residential areas, yet there is little action being taken to address this. Possibly because designing effective deterrents is complicated and would be resisted by those who are wealthy and influential.

“Exploring what would work best should include building on the planning policy adopted by the London Borough of Islington, which requires new dwellings not to be left unoccupied for a set continuous period, and also looking abroad to what other cities are doing to deal with this problem.

“The current housing crisis requires a lot of different solutions - tackling buy to leave should be a high priority.”

The rate of unoccupied second homes seen in South Hams is far higher than it is nationally. Across England, there were 248,746 dwellings classed as “second homes” in October last year - just 1% of all residential properties in the

While not quite so bad as South Hams, other parts of Devon also have particularly high rates of these properties. 

In both East and North Devon, one in every 26 residential properties is an unoccupied second home, while in Torridge one in every 33 is.

How many Devon house are second homes?

Local authority // Number of second homes // Rate (one in every x homes) 

South Hams // 3,896 // 11
East Devon // 2,603 // 26
North Devon // 1,721 // 26
Torridge // 985 // 33
Torbay // 1,541 // 43
Teignbridge // 1,333 // 46
West Devon // 525 // 49
Exeter // 530 // 106
Mid Devon // 249 // 144
Plymouth // 700 // 170
England // 248,746 // 97

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