Landlords and second home owners who leave their properties standing empty face a new tax blitz.
The government is to introduce proposals to let local authorities raise an extra £420 million a year in Council Tax from homes left vacant for more than two years and second homes only used at weekends.
The ‘empty homes premium’ penalises property owners who can currently claim Council Tax discounts for under-use.
The government estimates more than a million homes stand empty for most of the time which could clear half the families from council waiting lists.
“We’ve lived with the scourge of empty homes for too long,” said Andrew Stunell, the Lib Dem communities minister.
“They’re a blight on our communities and a waste of much-needed housing. It’s madness that councils have been forced to offer discounts on empty and second homes, which don’t take into account local circumstances and provide an incentive to leave homes vacant indefinitely.”
Councils are urging the government to bring in the new charge to counter falling council tax revenues to pay for services.
In holiday home communities, like Cornwall and the Lake District, many homes are empty while councils struggle to find the cash to pay for essential services.
Last year, 246,000 properties were eligible for a second-home discount of 10 to 50%, costing councils £42 million.
Cornwall loses the most to second-home owner discounts at £2 million a year.
Leeds City Council is the biggest local authority empty homes loser, with an £8.5 million a year council tax shortfall.
Nationally, lost council tax on empty properties adds up to £382 million a year.
Stunell also threatened to “clamp down hard on landlords who leave homes empty for long periods” by increasing the amount of Council Tax they pay on houses and flats.