Council tax increases on empty and second homes in Darlington have been criticised by landlords - but were still voted through. 

Under current legislation, properties which have been empty for two or more years will be charged a 100 per cent council tax premium. That figure increases to 200 and 300 per cent for unfurnished properties over five and 10 years respectively. 

However, some protection is provided to owners trying to bring long-term empty homes back into use. 

But new rules voted through by Darlington Borough Council mean that from 2024-25, unfurnished properties that have been empty for over a year are liable to 100 per cent council tax. 

A 100 per cent premium is also proposed on second homes from April 2025. 

Yet the changes were criticised by landlords and second homeowners in the town. Of the 48 responses received, 42 people opposed them. 

One respondee said: “I am a landlord and feel it is wrong to charge 100 per cent council tax as soon as a property becomes empty. There should be at least three months grace so a landlord can carry out refurbishments to prepare for a new tenant without getting penalised.”

Homeowners are now contemplating selling their other properties due to the extra council tax burden. 

“I will most likely have to sell it,” another person said. “This was my parents home and I bought it when they both passed away so I could keep in touch with family who remain in Darlington. The increase in council tax will put a stop to this as it will no longer be affordable and my quality of life will suffer.”

Several people also said their properties are not used for investment purposes and are only classed as ‘second homes’ as they work elsewhere most of the time. One response noted: “Darlington is not a tourist destination in the same way as Devon or Cornwall, where second home ownership can have a much more profound impact on local communities and people’s ability to get on the housing ladder.” 

Exemptions to the existing council tax Empty Property Premiums:

  • Where a statutory empty property council tax exemption applies, such as properties undergoing probate. 
  • Actively marketed for sale or rent. 
  • Undergoing substantial renovation or refurbishment to bring them back into use – time limited for 6 months. 
  • Where there is a legal or other reason preventing the property from being occupied, sold or rented. 

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Meanwhile, a scheme which allows vulnerable Darlington residents to pay less council tax has been extended.

Councillors have agreed to extend its council tax reduction scheme in a bid to protect thousands of people impacted by rising household costs. 

In Darlington, working aged people can only receive a maximum of 80 per cent support towards their council tax. But care leavers under the age of 25 are exempt from council tax. Pensioners are also protected from the effects of local schemes by a national framework of rules and eligibility.