PEOPLE with properties which have been empty for more than six months are to lose their 50% council tax discount in Carmarthenshire.
Council chiefs made the decision, which will affect around 3,000 homes and come into force next April, at an executive board meeting this week.
But they didn’t opt to add a council tax premium to these properties, as some other local authorities have done. And current exemptions and discounts – such as when the owner is in residential care – will continue where appropriate.
Cllr Linda Evans, executive board member for housing, said: “We have quite a few empty houses in our county and we are working hard to get these homes back into use.”
She said letters were sent to empty homeowners a while back encouraging them to get in touch – a move which has resulted in around 190 properties being brought back into use over the past year.
“But there are more out there,” said Cllr Evans. “I am encouraging house owners to come and have a chat with us, and contact the housing department.
“There is help available – there are incentives and loans, which are no-interest loans.”
The report before board members said empty properties could negatively affect the vicinity in terms of market value and quality of life, and encourage vandalism and squatting. Empty properties are classed as unoccupied and substantially unfurnished.
Authorities in Wales have been able to reduce or remove the 50% council tax discount since 2003, but until now they have been compensated by the Welsh Government if they chose not to.
That is set to change next year, meaning that councils will lose out financially if they continue with the discount. For Carmarthenshire Council, the loss would be around £1 million per year.
The executive board’s decision will increase the county’s council tax base, in turn benefiting town councils and Dyfed-Powys Police.
Cllr David Jenkins, executive board member for finances, suggested the authority should write again to the owners of the 3,000-odd affected properties.
Jake Morgan, director of community services, said: “Some sort of proactive initiative is a really good idea.”