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At a Cabinet meeting on 12 December Walsall Council members approved that a report - put forward to increasing Council Tax on residential properties which have been left empty and unfurnished for long periods of time, be taken to full Council for consideration in January 2019.  Increases could be introduced in April 2019 as part of a range of Council measures to address housing need, reduce homelessness and support the borough’s residential property market.

Walsall Council currently charges a 50% council tax premium on properties that have been unoccupied and unfurnished for more than 2 years (with certain exceptions) Depending on how long a property has been left empty - this could now be increased to 100% and higher. Potential increases would take place over the next three years and over time, allow the authority to double council tax for those properties empty for more than two years, but less than 5 years. Council tax would triple on those properties left empty for five to ten years and quadruple on houses empty for more than 10 years.

Councillor Adrian Andrew Portfolio Holder for Regeneration said: “Residential houses that remain empty and neglected for a period of time are not only a waste of resources, but an eyesore that can undermine the look of local communities. A premium tax increase will act as a deterrent and encourage errant owners to bring these properties back into use. When we started to tackle this in 2011, we quickly saw a 44% reduction in long-term empty properties.  My view is let houses serve their purpose and become family homes again”

According to Government records, 291 out of the 326 local authorities have used the discretion to introduce a council tax premium and all but two of those levy the current maximum premium of 50%. It is thought that the increase in council tax premium will quickly mobilise owners to get their empty properties back in use, creating housing provision to match local need which in turn will reduce homelessness.

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