Council tax discount on second homes to end in Epsom and Ewell
Homeowners and landlords will have to pay full council tax on second homes and properties undergoing major repair work from April.
Until now there has been a 10 per cent discount for second homes and a year-long exemption for homes needing major repairs in Epsom and Ewell.
But the Local Government Finance Act 2012 has given councils the chance to set their own rates from April.
So the council has decided to axe the discounts in a bid to fill the financial black hole caused by the Government cutting funding for the new localised council tax benefit scheme.
In addition the current six-month exemption for unoccupied and unfurnished homes will be reduced to just one month.
Although the scheme is expected to raise around £450,000 the council will only be able to keep £50,000.
A council spokesman said: "There is also a push to bring empty housing into use."
But Simon Caird, managing director of Cairds Estate Agents, in Epsom, said reducing the exemption for empty homes would hit private renters.
Mr Caird said: "If you have property on the market to let and you can’t rent it you are going to be paying out council tax after a month.
"What they are effectively doing is hitting out at the people who are providing accommodation.
"It could put people off investing in property."
He said he did not think people had second homes in Epsom, but changes would actually impact pensioners who can no longer live at home.
He said: "That’s going to hit the elderly who may have to go into sheltered temporary care but may not have given up their homes. It’s just not fair."
However, Councillor Neil Dallen said landlords make a fair amount of money when renting out houses and council tax was part of running a business.
Coun Dallen said: "There are swings and roundabouts when they are running a business."
He also said pensioners unable to live at home would actually face other much larger expenses such as costs paid to estate agents when selling up.
He said: "The costs of selling a house are relatively large compared to the relatively small amount they have to pay in council tax."
He added: "Let’s just put this into perspective.
"We knew when we made these changes that people are going to be hit.
"We are trying to minimise the hit on people who can least afford to pay."
Coun Dallen said: "If you can afford a second home you can afford the council tax.
"If a furnished property can be lived in, it should be lived in because we have a shortage of housing."
* In Reigate and Banstead there will be no discount on second homes, but a 28-day exemption for homes either undergoing repairs or left empty.
A spokeswoman said: "The borough has a shortage of properties for those in housing need and the changes aim to bring empty homes back into use more quickly.
"It will also enable us to raise additional Council Tax revenue for us and the other precepting authorities we collect on behalf of."