HSSA - Definition of Second Homes - RQ for Info

This follows on from the discussion on HSSA in January 2007(see www.naepp.org.uk/website/drupal/node/297)

None of the comments in NAEPP's final submission of January 2007 was reflected in the final HSSA Guidance for 2007. NAEPP therefore sought a meeting, which finally took place in July 2007, when several NAEPP committee members met several CLG statisticians, including those responsible for HSSA.

The main points we made were:

  1. The need for a definition of "second homes" for HSSA (there is none at present).
  2. Preferable to count all vacant dwellings for HSSA, and then disregard certain categories for the purpose of CPA H18.
  3. CLG should insert in HSSA data from the Valuation Officer on vacant dwellings removed from the Valuation List.

The statisticians seemed receptive to these suggestions. However they have since warned that any change to the 2008 HSSA will be "minimalistic/essential".

In any future discussions with CLG it would be useful to have evidence of how individual Councils currently interpret "second home" for the purpose of HSSA: where second homes are excluded from the figures for vacant dwellings.

For example, do Councils:

  1. Require evidence of some minimum extent of occupation during the year?
  2. Rely on the Local Government Act 2003 definition (a furnished dwelling which is not the individual's sole or main residence)?

Please tell us here your Council's approach to this. Thank you.


Graham Everett

Official statistics - DCLG/CTB/LAHS/HSSA

GrahamIt has been pretty difficult in Exeter to arrive at anyaccurate figure for second homes. In our conceptual framework (if I am allowed to be that pretentious) we can distinguish the following main categories of "true" second homes:a) Holiday homes (traditional second homes).b) Homes that are in use but are no-one's principal residence eg used by people who work in one place in the week and return to their family residence at the weekend. This might be a temporary arrangement pending a household moving from one town to another.c) Homes retained by employers (eg the NHS) for visiting staff who again have permanent homes elsewhere. We would want to count all of these as second homes but of course there is no way of distinguishing them from other furnished empties. Furnished empties that do not fall within any of the above categories I would NOT want to count as second homes.Anyway, we are using a proxy figure for "second homes" which is all furnished empties that have been empty for more than 2 years. (a) and (c) and a good number of properties in category (b) are likely to be registered as empty for more than 2 years months for reasons that are self-explanatory when you think about it. Of course the two-year figure is arbitrary and you could substitute another figure such as a year. Whatever you do you are likely to ignore some properties that really are second homes and count some empty properties that really aren't second homes. But this does have the merit of continuing to count as "empty properties" transactional empty furnished homes that would probably have been counted prior to the introduction of the changed discount arrangements in 2004. It is a matter of regret that the current approach to treating numbers of empties as a performance indicator is likely to create an incentive to under-report empty properties. I am sure many authorities will be happy to treat all furnished empty homes as "second homes". In Exeter that would lead to a signifcant reduction in the number of empty homes reported (we currently count 279 second homes and there are about 500 furnished empties - our total private sector empty property figure would drop by 20% or more if we counted all furnished empties as second homes). David Gibbens, Housing Enabling Manager, Exeter City Council

The original version of the above said the criterion was empty for 6 months or more.  Oops. That should have been 2 years or more.....David Gibbens Housing Enabling Manager, Exeter City Council

We ask owners to state whether or not their property is a second home, both by Council Tax and the Empty Property Survey that is sent to all owners who have properties empty for 6m or more.We require proof that they are paying Council Tax on their main residence elsewhere and confirm this with the relevant Local Authority.We do not consider 'furnished and empty' to be a second home.We do consider properties to be second homes where the owner uses them as a base for work during the week or where companies keep them for visiting staff etc.   

Sue Li

Compulsory Purchase and Enforcement Officer

Derby City Council

Dot Barnard, Team Leader - Empty & Decent Homes, Leicester City CouncilCouncil Tax section at Leicester class any furnished property which is not the owner's main home, and is unoccupied, as a second home. This means that if a property is converted into - say 8 flats, which are furnished and they are all empty the owner has 8 second homes. If the furnished second property is let, it loses its second home status. If it becomes empty again it will revert to a second home. Properties which are empty and unfurnished are classed as empty by Council Tax. Leicester City allows a 50% discount for 6 months on empty properties, after which, 100% is charged. Owners of second homes, i.e. furnished empty properties pay 90% Council Tax.The Empty Homes Team here at Leicester only accepts a property as a genuine second home if it is in a different town, village, or country away from the main home.

DotI am just curious about the mechanics of the above: is it your Empty Homes Team figure that goes into the HSSA return or the figure from Council Tax?  If the Empty Homes Team figure what procedure do you have to collect/check the information?ThanksDavid Gibbens Housing Enabling Manager, Exeter City Council

Preston City Council use the LGA 2003 definition for categorising 2nd homes.  These properties are charged 90% council tax, however, although Council tax inspectors will go out on a 4 monthly basis to check occupancy status of the property, they do not require any evidence to support that status.  I have a bit of an issue with this as its not clear as yet which homes are included (public sector, those occupied for a portion of the time on a regular basis etc.). If they do find any sign of occupancy then they will automatically charge 100% council tax.As we don't have a great number of 2nd homes in Preston, any effect on  figures will be minimal.  For this year's return, I suggested we ignore 2nd homes as from an enforcement point of view there's isn't too much we can do about them and they are not a priority for us.  However, I personally would like better clarification from a stats point of view and for future strategy.

Graham,At Derby I can confirm we use the local Gov. 2003 act for the definition, and count 2nd homes according to survey response. That is, when the annual council tax survey forms are sent out we provide for the respondent to indicate whether the property in question is a "2nd home" and these responses are the basis of our figures. We have 42 dwellings registered as 2nd homes in the current year.The standard discount for 2nd homes is 10% (the same as for empties). No further evidence is sought nor verification required other than the survey response. The exception to this is in the case of 'tied accommodation' - where accommodation is lived in on an occasional basis due to a job relocation or such like. In these cases a 50% discount is given and further verification is required.Perhaps not the most robust methodology but that is our current practice!Jez

The draft HSSA guidance for 2008 appears unchanged since 2007, despite NAEPP's meeting with CLG statisticians last year.   So there is no definition, or counting, of second homesAny comments on the draft should be made by 16 April to hip.returns@communities.gsi.gov.ukI fear that any further comment by NAEPP will be futile.   What do others think?

GrahamI was at the CLIP meeting and put forward the NAEPP request - though as a representative of Exeter City Council.  I have subsequently written to CLG when the draft was published expressing my disappointment that they have not taken the comments on board.  Far from being futile, I think if people would approach them  on this issue we might still see a result.  It may be a question of sufficient people making their views known.They have also removed the box for BVPI64 figures on the factually incorrect (for 2007-08) grounds that it is not being collected any more.  [Someone please tell me that I haven't got that wrong].   I have pointed this out too.  Excerpts from my email to them are below.  I sent it to all 60 or so addressees on the CLG email, including the Audit Commission etc, so plenty of people will be aware of this issue!Some minor points on the HSSA form and a major one.The major one first: I am disappointed that the opportunity has not been taken to include an entry for the number of second homes discounted from the overall number of "empties".  I have already spelt out the reasons why such an entry is essential for determining the real trends in the numbers of empty properties,  both at the CLIP meeting and in a separate email to you and others and will not rehearse the arguments again other than to say that the impact of inconsistent definitions of second homes on the overall figures for empty homes is not trivial.======= Guidance text"Question 6 on return to use of vacant properties has been removed from this years form because it was post-filled using Best-Value Performance Indicator data (BVPI) from the Audit Commission, which will no longer be collected." I am no fan of BPVI64 but it will of course be collected for 2007-08 so the comment is factually wrong.  The decision about what information to collect about empty homes and the work of local authorities should be made as part of the general review of the HSSA form rather than being pre-empted here. The fact that there is no longer a PI does not prevent information being collected via the HSSA (or it will get very short indeed).     

I will send the following brief comment tomorrow (the deadline) on behalf of NAEPP, unless I hear otherwise:The CLG recognises the role of the National Association of Empty Property Practitioners (NAEPP).In July 2007  several NAEPP committee members met several CLG statisticians (incl Hayley Butcher and Jon White) to discuss the HSSA in relation to empty homes.   That meeting appeared to achieve a consensus on:

  • the need for a consistent definition of second homes
  • the desirability of counting second homes, while distinguishing them from empty homes.

NAEPP is very disappointed that the draft HSSA guidance does not in any way reflect the consensus reached at that meeting.NAEPP's enquiries amongst its members have demonstrated that the definition of second homes used by local authorities for the purpose of HSSA varies enormously.    It is therefore impossible to have confidence in HSSA empty home returns which are derived by disregarding second homes, without a consistent definition of empty homes.   

An excellent response.  We need to get the Empty Homes Agency making representations too as the bottom line of alll this is the reported number of empty properties. David Gibbens Housing Enabling Manager, Exeter City Council