East Devon second home owners face a council tax bill hike amid new ‘double charge’ powers

Thousands of second homeowners in East Devon face a hike in their council tax bills from 2025 after the district council backed charging double.

Almost 3,000 second home owners in East Devon could see their council tax double from next year, writes local democracy reporter Will Goddard.

The Levelling Up and Regeneration Act 2023 means that councils can now charge double council tax on properties that are “substantially furnished” but no-one’s sole or main residence.

They can also now define a property as empty after just one year of it being unoccupied and unfurnished, rather than two years previously, and can charge 100 per cent or more on top of the normal council tax bill based on how long it has been vacant.

It is hoped the changes will allow more properties to be brought back into use for the local community.

East Devon District Council (EDDC)’s cabinet backed the new powers this week. They will be put to the full council soon to be ratified.

Currently 2,760 properties In East Devon are second homes. Owners will have to start paying double council tax from April 2025 if the proposals are approved.

There are also 221 properties in the district have been empty for more than one year (but less than two). These owners will have to pay double council tax from April this year.

Funds raised would be set aside to tackle housing challenges only.

Cllr Paul Hayward (Independent, Axminster) warned of a potential loophole in the law.   He said: “There is a risk that some owners of a second property, I might say perhaps unscrupulous owners, may try to avoid their responsibilities for the additional premium by registering a person living in the property even though the residence remains elsewhere.

“That is unavoidable. If people wish to do that, and I suppose some people’s inclination will be to do so, then Libby and her team [of council officers]will be watching for it, and they do have a great many tools to deal with this sort of, essentially, fraud and abuse.”

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