Empty properties and charges

Council Tax is a property tax and is charged according to Council Tax legislation. Most of the legislation that determines discounts and exemptions is set at a national level by the government, but each Billing Authority has discretionary powers to decide some charges for empty properties locally.

The Elected Members of Bradford Council have decided that there should be no discount for holiday homes or second properties and that long term empty properties should be charged an additional amount of Council Tax.

On this page:

Do empty properties get a discount?

There is no discount for most empty properties in Bradford, though there are exceptions. More information on discounts and exemptions is on our website.

What if I own a property that is currently empty?

An empty property may be:

  • unoccupied (not lived in full time) and *substantially furnished
    or
  • unoccupied and substantially unfurnished.

*By substantially furnished we mean that there is sufficient furniture in the house to allow somebody to live in the property (for example, beds, chairs, sofas, tables, or wardrobes).

Unoccupied but substantially furnished properties

An example of a house that is unoccupied but substantially furnished would be a holiday home. These properties are subject to the full council tax charge. No discounts (for example Single Person Discount) can be claimed because nobody is living in the property.

Unoccupied and substantially unfurnished properties

These properties are subject to the full Council Tax charge. No discounts (for example Single Person Discount) can be claimed because nobody is living in the property. Properties that are empty and substantially unfurnished are known as "vacant". If they remain empty and unfurnished for two or more years they will become long term empty properties.

Extra charges for long term empty properties

In 2013 the government introduced legislation that allowed councils to charge extra council tax for properties that have been empty and substantially unfurnished for two or more years. This is known as a long term empty premium.

Initially the extra charge was 50% (the bill was for 150% of the normal Council Tax for the property). From 2019 the government increased the amount long term empty premium that councils can charge as outlined in the table below. From April 2024 the new rules mean that properties that have been vacant for more than one year will now be subject to the empty property premium::

Date introduced Years empty Extra percentage Council Tax charged
1 April 2019 1 100% (2 times the full charge)
1 April 2020 5 200% (3 times the full charge)
1 April 2021 10 300% (4 times the full charge)

The period that a property is classed as being vacant starts from the first day it is unoccupied and substantially unfurnished - a change in ownership doesn’t break this period. This means that if the property was empty prior to you purchasing it then you will still incur the additional empty property charges.

Help from our Empty Homes Team

The council’s empty homes team can give help and advice to owners of empty properties. They can also provide interest free loans or improvement grants that can help bring the property back in to use. More information about the Empty Homes Team can be found on our website.

Paying Council Tax on empty properties

Council Tax must be paid in accordance with the latest bill you have been issued. If the property is being refurbished, then the charges will still need to be paid.

Depending on what the intention is for the property, once all refurbishments have been completed, then we may be able to help you by delaying payments. Our general advice is:

  • If you plan to sell the property – we can hold for a short term and wait for sale. At the point of sale, we would need payment of all charges owed. We would also require evidence of the sale such as proof of Estate Agents and also a solicitors undertaking if necessary.
  • If you want to rent out the property – The Liability (council tax charges) for the owner will stop however we will still need the charges paid over time. We can accept payments over a longer period of time as there is no on-going liability
  • If you are planning to move into the property – No hold is allowed. Eventually charges will need to be paid and you will also be getting a new charge every year. When you do move in then you may be eligible for discounts based on the property being your sole or main residence for example Single Person Discount or Council Tax Reduction if you are on low income.

I don’t live there so why should I pay Council Tax?

Council Tax is not a direct charge for services provided. It is a statutory tax levied on occupiers (and some owners) of dwellings within the council's area. Council Tax is not a direct charge for individual services received; the amount collected is actually paid into a central fund to enable the council to provide services for the benefit of the community as a whole.

There is no provision in Council Tax legislation for reductions or discounts based on individuals' problems and experiences in connection with services received.

What legislation does this come under?

The billing authority refers to section 11B of the Local Government Finance Act 1992, which makes provision for an empty homes premium to be charged in relation to such classes of long term empty dwelling. Section 11B was inserted into the Local Government Finance Act 1992 under Section 12 of the Local Government Finance Act 2012

What if I do not agree that this property should be classed as empty / vacant?

You have the right to appeal against this decision regarding the charge. Any appeal should be in writing to The Appeals Officer, PO Box 1242, Bradford, BD1 9YN fully explaining why you disagree with the decision to charge a long term empty premium for your property and enclosing any additional supporting information.

Please be aware you don't have the right to withhold payment whilst any appeal is being considered.

The role of the Valuation Office Agency

The Valuation Office Agency determines if a property should be included in the rating list for council tax. Properties can only be removed from the council tax list if they have changed use, for example now a business, or they are in serious need of repair such as no external wall or no roof. The Valuation Office will not remove it for major internal repairs or renovations.

Contact the Valuation Office on 03000 501 501.