Owners of more than 1,200 second homes in two Suffolk districts could be faced with higher bills if their properties remain empty, following the introduction of new government rules. 

Councillors at Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils are set to consider increasing tax premiums for owners of second homes and long-term empty properties, of which there are almost 600 in Babergh and more than 680 in Mid Suffolk.

The councils already impose a council tax premium on the owners of properties that are empty and unfurnished for two years or longer, but under the new legislation, the councils would be able to target empty properties after just one year from April 2024 and impose a levy on second home owners from April 2025.

On Tuesday, January 9, cabinet members are set to consider proposals which would see owners of homes left empty for a year or more pay double, with a premium of up to 100%, from April 2024.

Meanwhile, owners of properties that have been empty for five years or more would see their council tax bills treble with a premium of up to 200%, and owners of properties left empty for 10 years would face quadrupled bills, with a premium of up to 300%.

The proposals would also see the owners of 576 second homes in Babergh and 542 in Mid Suffolk have their council tax bill doubled from April 2025. 

East Anglian Daily Times: Cllr Jessie Carter, Cabinet Member for HousingCllr Jessie Carter, Cabinet Member for Housing (Image: Babergh District Council)

Cabinet member for housing at Babergh District Council, Jessie Carter said: “It’s unacceptable that houses are standing empty without valid reason. 

"Each empty property is a potential home, and we must encourage owners to bring them back into use to help relieve the pressure on existing housing stock. 

"We want to put more homes back on the market – and ensure that those who choose to own second homes make a higher contribution to local services at a time when they are under pressure."

Richard Winch, cabinet member for housing and property at Mid Suffolk District Council, added: “Empty homes blight neighbourhoods and can attract antisocial behaviour and crime. 

"This would be a positive step in tackling the shortage of housing which puts pressure on prices and leaves local people priced out of the housing market."

For council tax, second homes are defined as a property in which there is 'no one resident' but that is 'substantially furnished'. 

East Anglian Daily Times: Cllr Richard Winch, Cabinet Member for Housing and PropertyCllr Richard Winch, Cabinet Member for Housing and Property (Image: BMSDC)

Analysis has suggested the proposals for empty homes premiums could create an extra £300k in Babergh and £500k in Mid Suffolk next year, while premiums for second home owners in 2025 could net an additional £1.1million for Babergh and £90k for Mid Suffolk. 

In November last year, East Suffolk councillor David Beavan, who represents Southwold, said he would be resubmitting a motion to the council after an original motion to introduce a 100% rate rise was rejected by the council in July.

The Yorkshire towns Whitby and Scarborough are set to be the first in the country to double the council tax on second homes after the government announced local authorities will have the power to levy the extra bills from April 2024, with the new rules coming in from April 2023. 

Mr Beavan said he wanted the money raised through the doubling of rates to be ring-fenced to pay for affordable housing in areas where there were housing shortages.