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A dwelling that is considered liable for council tax is any kind of property which is a place of residence. This includes second homes if they are not let out to tenants and even caravans if someone uses it as their main home. Properties with many people living and sharing cooking and washing facilities may fall into this category too.

However, empty properties are often exempt from council tax charges, either in part or in full, providing they fulfil certain criteria within certain time limits. This can often be a great relief if you own a second property with is unlived in, especially if you are experiencing a large amount of upheaval in your life which has a substantial impact on the property.


  • Empty, unfurnished and tied to agricultural lands when last lived in
  • Forbidden by law or subject to compulsory purchase
  • To be demolished
  • Former liable person moved to receive healthcare
  • Former liable person moved to provide care to another
  • Former liable person in prison (assuming main home beforehand)
  • Empty due to repossession
  • Empty dwellings within the curtilage of a property occupied by the liable resident e.g. granny annexe, staff accommodation
  • Empty properties designated for religious ministers (manses etc.)
  • Empty student accommodation
  • Empty and liable person is a trustee in bankruptcy


  • Empty and unfurnished, for up to six months
  • New empty houses, for up to six months
  • Empty student accommodation, for up to four months
  • Deceased’s empty property providing a) liability is met by the Estate and b) no grant of confirmation has been made (or it is six months since it was made)
  • Empty and undergoing significant improvement and repair, for up to 12 months

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However, from 1 April 2013 councils were granted new powers to remove any empty dwelling discounts or exemptions for properties that have been empty for a year or more and are classed as long-term unoccupied. This is entirely at the discretion of the council

The aim is to encourage owners of long-term unoccupied properties back into use. Homes left vacant can fall into disrepair and even become a target for vandalism, not to mention contribute to a shortage of good quality homes for renting and buying.

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Your empty dwelling may be eligible for a council tax exemption

Second homes are not considered under this new legislation, as they are judged to contribute to the local economy, especially if they are rented out periodically as holiday homes. There are also a number of situations under which a dwelling is considered exempt.

However homes that are being actively marketed for sale or rent have two years from the time they were last occupied before the council can consider increasing the council tax liability owed. The council is within its right to ask to see all relevant particulars relating to the marketing to ensure a fair market price is being asked and the owners is not deliberately trying to evade paying council tax on an empty property.

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