Council Tax FAQs – Exemptions and reductions for unoccupied properties

This section gives you information about the ways your council tax can be reduced, if your property is empty or unoccupied. It also has links to the forms you can complete, if you want to claim an exemption or discount.

What exemption or discount is available on unoccupied properties?

Until 1st April 2013 if you owned or rented an empty and unfurnished property you could claim an exemption for up to six months. This was called a class C exemption. After six months you would have had to start paying council tax again at the full rate for your property. 

From 1 April 2013 this exemption has been replaced by a local discount of 100% for one calendar month. On 1st April 2013 all existing exemptions will end, because these properties will already have been unoccupied and unfurnished for longer than one calendar month.

After one month of 100% discount, the full council tax charge for the property has to be paid. If the property remains unoccupied and unfurnished for two years or more, the council tax will increase to 150%.

The class C exemption and the discount that replaces it, applies to the property and not the owner or tenant. So if the property had already been exempt when you took over, you may have been able to claim only part of the six month exemption, or none at all. The same rule will apply to the discount, so you may only be able to claim part of the one month discount and then you will have to start paying the full charge.

What if I own or rent a second home?

Until 1st April 2013, if you own, or rent two homes, you will pay the full council tax charge on your main home and 90% of the charge on your 2nd home, providing that the 2nd home is furnished and unoccupied for most of the time.

From 1st April 2013, this discount has been abolished and the full council tax will be payable on your main home and your second home.

What if my property is unoccupied, because it is uninhabitable, or because I am making structural alterations to it?

Until 1st April 2013, properties in disrepair were exempt from council tax for a maximum of 12 months. This was called a class A exemption. If the property was still in disrepair for more than 12 months you would have had to start paying full council tax again for your property.

From 1 April 2013 this exemption will end and will be replaced by a local discount. The discount for properties in disrepair is 50% of the council tax, payable for a maximum of 12 months. At the end of the 12 month discount period, if the property is still in disrepair, we will send you a notice for the full council tax.

If the property remains unoccupied and unfurnished for two years or more, the council tax will increase to 150%.

Examples of work that may qualify for the current exemption and the discount that will replace it, include,

  • Structural or major repair to the roof
  • Structural or major repair to supporting walls
  • Having to remove ceilings
  • Having to completely gut a property (removing heating, bathrooms, kitchen etc)

Examples of work that may not qualify for the current exemption or discount that will replace it, include,

  • Decorating
  • Fitting new windows
  • Fitting a new kitchen
  • Minor plastering, or minor cosmetic work

If you think that you might be entitled to the current exemption class A please contact us with the details.

What if a property is unoccupied because the person that lived in it has died?

If someone who paid council tax for a property has died and the property is now unoccupied it will be exempt. This exemption will last until probate has been granted and then for a maximum of 6 months afterwards. The exemption will end earlier if the dwelling is sold, transferred to a new owner, or let.

If the person that died was a tenant of the property the exemption would normally end when the tenancy officially ends and then the owner will become liable for the council tax.

If you think that you might be entitled to this exemption, please print an application form and send it to us. Alternatively under the circumstances you may prefer to speak to someone and we would be happy to help. But you will need the council tax account reference with you when you speak to us. We understand that in these circumstances it may not be easy to find the account reference, but if you don’t have it we might ask you to confirm the situation in writing, or complete an exemption for an unoccupied property form and send it to us.

What if part of my property includes an unoccupied annexe?

If you own an annexe that is adjoined to, or within the grounds of your home it could be exempt from council tax if it is unoccupied, and it cannot be sold or let separately from the main house without breaking a planning restriction.

If you think that you might be entitled to this exemption please print an unoccupied annexe exemption form and send it to us.

What if I have moved out because my property is being repossessed?

If your property has been repossessed and you have moved out you won’t have to pay any council tax. The bank, building society or mortgage lender will be responsible for the council tax and the property will be exempt from the date the possession order has been granted.

If you think that you might be entitled to this exemption, please contact us with the details.

What if the property has been left unoccupied by a bankrupt person?

If a property has been left unoccupied and the person who would be liable is acting as a trustee in bankruptcy, we can grant an exemption. This applies whether the property is furnished or unfurnished.

If you think that you might be entitled to this exemption, please contact us with the details.

What if I have had to move from my home to receive care?

If you have moved out of your home, because you have moved somewhere else to receive care and your home is now unoccupied, we can give you an exemption.

To qualify you must be receiving care due to:

  • Old age
  • Disablement
  • Illness
  • Drug dependence
  • Mental disorder

If you think that you might be entitled to this exemption, please print an exemption form for unoccupied properties following a move to receive care and send it to us.

What if I am providing care for someone and have had to move from my home?

If you have moved out of your home so that you can provide care for someone and your home is now unoccupied, you can claim an exemption.

To qualify you must be providing care due to one of the following:

  • Old age
  • Disablement
  • Illness
  • Drug dependence
  • Mental disorder

If you think that you might be entitled to this exemption, please print an exemption form for an unoccupied property following a move to provide care form  and send it to us.

What if the property is unoccupied and could only be occupied by a minister of religion?

If an unoccupied property could only be occupied by a minister of religion and he or she will use it as a base to perform their religious duties, we can grant an exemption while it is unoccupied.

If you think that you might be entitled to this exemption, please print an ministers accommodation exemption form  and send it to us.

What if we are a charity that owns an unoccupied property?

If you are a registered charity and you own an unoccupied property it can be exempt from council tax for up to six months. The exemption will apply from the date it first became unoccupied. The exemption will end when someone moves in, or if it stays unoccupied the exemption will end after six months. If it is still unoccupied after six months you will have to pay council tax again at the normal rate for the property.

If you think that you might be entitled to this exemption, please print an exemption for unoccupied charity owned property form   and send it to us.

What if I am not allowed by law to occupy my property?

If a property is unoccupied because there is a law preventing it from being occupied, it will be exempt from council tax.

If you think that you might be entitled to this exemption, please print an exemption for a property that the law says cannot be occupied form  and send it to us.

What if I am a student and I own an unoccupied property?

If you are a full time student, and you own an unoccupied property, you may be eligible for a council tax exemption. To qualify for this exemption, you must meet the criteria in the list below:

  • the property was your sole or main residence until you moved out, and
  • nobody else occupied the property apart from other full time students

If you weren’t a student when you moved out, but you became a student within 6 weeks of moving out, you can still be entitled to this exemption.

If you think that you might be entitled to this exemption please print an exemption for an unoccupied property owned by a student form  and send it to us.

What if I have an unoccupied pitch for a mobile home or mooring for a boat?

If you have an empty pitch for a mobile home or mooring for a boat you can claim an exemption. The exemption will start when the pitch or mooring becomes empty and will end when it becomes occupied again.

If you think that you might be entitled to this exemption, please print an exemption for a vacant pitch form  and send it to us.