A bigger bill for empty home owners is being considered by the City Council's Cabinet.

Owners who leave a home empty for more than two, five years or longer are facing a premium on their Council Tax bill.

Cabinet is considering the proposal when it meets on Wednesday 16 January.

Councillor Paul Stewart, the City Council's Cabinet Secretary, said: "There are perfectly valid reasons if properties are empty for a few months as residents move or tenancies change.

"Yet, the longer the property is empty and unoccupied there are fewer reasons and explanations. Empty homes can have a negative impact on neighbourhoods and our communities."

Subject to the decision, the empty homes premiums from April 2019 would be:
* 100 per cent for properties that have been empty for at least two years.

For the financial year beginning April 2020 the additional premiums would be:
* 100 per cent for properties that have been empty for at least two years;
* 200 per cent for properties that have been empty for at least five years or more.

For the financial year beginning April 2021 the additional premiums would be:
* 100 per cent for properties that have been empty for at least two years;
* 200 per cent for properties that have been empty for at least five years but less than
ten years;
* 300 per cent for properties that have been empty for at least ten years.

The majority of properties in Sunderland are in Council Tax bands A and B. If an owner of a Sunderland property has had a Band A property empty for at least two years then the proposal based on 2018/19 Council Tax levels would see a bill double from £1,033.13 to £2,066.26 for 2019/20.

For a Band D Sunderland property that has been empty for at least two years based upon 2018/19 Council Tax levels the bill would rise from £1,549.70 to £3,049.40 for 2019/20.

Cllr Stewart added: "There are many families, young couples and single people of all ages who could be renting or buying one of these properties."

The council introduced a 50 per cent premium on empty properties in 2013. It has since been applied to 697 properties. 

The new proposal was first outlined by the Government in 2017. The new powers under The Rating (Property in Common Occupation) and Council Tax (Empty Dwellings) Act 2018 come into effect from April 2019.
 

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