Council Tax set for 3.99 per cent rise in Sunderland - but empty homes could soon be charged DOUBLE

Empty homes in Sunderland could soon be hit by bigger Council Tax premiums.

Sunderland City Council is planning for a 3.99 per cent Council Tax rise this year.

Sunderland Council's Cabinet Secretary Coun Paul Stewart.

Sunderland Council's Cabinet Secretary Coun Paul Stewart.

But under proposals being considered by the Cabinet, people who leave a home empty for more than two, five years or longer face paying extra.

Subject to a decision being approved when Cabinet meets on January 16, that would mean:

* The empty homes premiums from April 2019 would be:

100 per cent for properties that have been empty for at least two years.

* For the financial year beginning April 2020 the additional premiums would be:

100 per cent for properties that have been empty for at least two years.

200 per cent for properties that have been empty for at least five years or more.

* For the financial year beginning April 2021 the additional premiums would be:

100 per cent for properties that have been empty for at least two years.

200 per cent for properties that have been empty for at least five years but less than ten years.

300 per cent for properties that have been empty for at least ten years.

The majority of properties in Sunderland fall under the Council Tax bands A and B, which means if a homeowner has had a Band A property empty for at least two years then the proposal, based on 2018/19 Council Tax levels, would see a bill double from £1,033.13 to £2,066.26 for 2019/20.

For a Band D Sunderland property that has been empty for at least two years, based upon 2018/19 Council Tax levels, the bill would rise from £1,549.70 to £3,049.40 for 2019/20.

Cabinet Secretary, Coun Paul Stewart, said: "There are perfectly valid reasons if properties are empty for a few months as residents move or tenancies change.

"Yet, the longer the property is empty and unoccupied there are fewer reasons and explanations and empty homes can have a negative impact on neighbourhoods and our communities.

"If there are investors who are waiting for an upturn in sales or rentals and keeping properties empty then this is tax on them and a fair and just one. There are many families, young couples and single people of all ages who could be renting or buying one of these properties.

"Empty properties can blight communities and I shall be urging my Cabinet colleagues to note the report and back its recommendations."

The council introduced a 50 per cent premium on empty properties in 2013. It has since been applied to 697 properties.

A final decision on Council Tax proposals is due at the beginning of March.