Bid to bring Preston's empty homes back into use

The changes hope to bring empty homes back into use faster
The changes hope to bring empty homes back into use faster

Council bosses are considering changes to Preston’s empty house charges in a bid to bring properties back into use faster.

The town hall estimates the stricter guidelines could generate more than £100,000 per year for the cash-strapped authority.

Under previous regulations, owners of empty homes had two months grace from council tax followed with four months at paying half-rates.

The changes would see the exemption reduced to just one month. The proposals will be considered by elected members at the full council meeting on December 14.

A report to be presented to councillors reads: “It is proposed that the existing determination be varied to provide a one month exemption (100 per cent discount) period to allow for the changeover of occupiers, particularly tenants.

“For clarity, there will be no follow on discounted period for the remaining period up to six months.

“This change would generate additional income for the council and its precepting authorities.”

The report adds: "Taking up this proposal would generate income in the region of £643k for the Council and its precepting authorities, of which approx. £109k would be allocated to the Council."

Councillors will be told the changes link in with the authority’s Empty Homes Strategy, which attempts to cut down on the number of long-term empty properties in the city by “speeding up the return to use of properties.”

In terms of properties undergoing major repairs or structural alterations, the current 50 per cent discount for up to a 12-month period will remain.

These current terms are viewed to be “reasonable but not excessive” and although removing the discount would generate £11,000, it should be retained, the report adds.

The changes would move Preston away from levels set by neighbouring authorities with South Ribble and Ribble Valley offering six month exemptions for empty properties, Chorley 50 per cent discount for six months and 25 per cent for up to 18 months.

Meanwhile, West Lancashire operates a 50 per cent discount for the first three months.

An empty dwelling is one which is unoccupied and substantially unfurnished, according to council guidelines.

The report adds: "Exemption status will continue to apply to all properties left empty by patients in hospital, deceased persons, receiving or providing care etc."