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Around 250,000 second-home owners could see their council tax double under changes that let councils scrap their discounts.
Councils will have the power to scrap discounts and charge second homeowners the full rate of council tax with the extra money offsetting bills for full-time occupiers.
Communities secretary Eric Pickles expects most councils to take the opportunity to raise more cash by April 2013.
Many councils in Scotland and Wales already charge second homeowners the full rate of council tax.
Their reasoning is empty second homes drain resources that make services like schools and rubbish collection more expensive for full-time occupiers.
The communities department released figures that reveal out of 328 councils in England, 205 offer a 10% council tax discount to second home owners, while 88 give a 50% reduction.
The rest give no discount or less than 10%.
Pickles said the change could cut £20 off the band D council tax bill of full-time householders.
“Under Labour, council tax went through the roof. This government has scrapped Labour’s council tax revaluation and is helping freeze council tax for two years,” he said.
Other measures to penalise empty homes include making landlords or property investors pay the full rate of council tax.
The government is looking at ways of helping councils raise more cash without increasing council tax as a way of counteracting spending cuts.
English councils lost £420 million in subsidies to 610,000 empty homes last year.
The National Landlords Association explained landlords often need time to “maintain, repair and improve” their properties between lettings.
“At a time of severe housing shortage, it is imperative that empty homes are brought back into use, but this should not be at the expense of improvements which would otherwise be possible within the private rented sector,” said NLA chairman David Salusbury.
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