LTE Premium - Discretion to waive if prop for sale/rent

2013 saw introduction of LTE Premium. In guidance to the Act, DCLG said

6. The government’s intention behind the decision to provide billing authorities with the power to charge a premium was not to penalise owners of property that is genuinely on the housing market for sale or rent.

7. The government expects billing authorities to consider the reasons why properties are unoccupied and unfurnished, including whether they are available for sale or rent, and decide whether they want such properties to be included in their determination. When considering the reasons an authority may want to take account of the following:

  • on average, how long are properties in their area been available for sale or rent before completion/occupation
  • what is the average price/rent in the local area?

QUESTIONS

Does your Billing Authority have an approved policy to waive the Premium if the property is 'genuinely on the housing market for sale or rent'?

If so, how do you operate this discretionary waiver?

Ta

Forums: 
Council tax - discounts, access to info etc

Hi Nick, 

At South Lakeland District Council we have an appeals process if a property has been empty for at least two years and they are having difficulties selling.  Policy guidelines for owners to appeal include questions like 'has professional advice & assistance been obtained?'; Have any offers to purchase or rent the property been received? - If Yes, why were those offers refused?; Is the sale price or rental in line with recent sale or rental prices for similar properties in the locality?  If 'No', does this property have special features that reasonably warrants a higher value or rent?; Has the property been put up for sale by public auction?  Written confirmation of the reasons for refusal will be required from a professional agent.

From my own experience I have spoken to owners who have dropped their sales price several times; accepted offers and then had a buyer withdraw.  In other words, the owner is 'actively' trying to bring their property back into use.   So I think it's only fair to have an appeals process.

Our council has not at this moment doubled the Premium to 100%.

On the subject of Repairs (instead of Sales) I understand that some Scottish empty homes officers have negotiated with their Council Tax departments to give an owner a 'holiday break' from the premium in order to carry out specific works and provided they do this within an agreed timeframe it can give them a welcome 'rest' from the extra 50%. 

Lynne Leach, Empty Homes Officer, South Lakeland District Council

Lynne Leach

My Council does not have a policy to consider the Government guidance concerning possible exclusion from the premium charge. We have had several cases where owners have disputed the premium charge on the grounds of the property being in the process of renovation or where it is for sale. We have resorted to the discretionary hardship discount scheme but none have been successful because the empty property is classed as an asset.

It would be fairer and more straightforward if a policy to consider exclusion did exist but we don;t have one (yet). The president of the valuation tribunal has blasted councils for not considering exclusions to the premium charge. Gov't could help here by turning their guidance about possible exclusions from the premium charge into actual law. This would force Councils to apply exclusions in certain circumstances.

Alison Jones

Senior Revenues Officer, Bassetlaw DC.

One could limit discretion to only ex-Class F's that have converted into LTEP. One might offer a time-limited waiver if the personal representatives prove they are making a reasonable effort to sell.  

Even with a fair wind and proactive Exors, there are some Estates that can take longer than  2 years to administer and to sell the property. I've seen cases where Class F applied, then 6 months after Probate is granted, CTax is liable at the LTE Premium rate. This is really tough when the Exors are trying to sell an age-restricted leasehold property. These Exors utlimately have to bite the bullet and sell at a price lower than they anticipated. We're awash with empty retirement leasehold properties here as that market seems to have gone doggo.

My gut feeling is that offering a waiver to all other types of LTEP charge payers would not actually help some of them to bring their spare homes back into use.  

Nick P-G
Reading BC
01189373091