Crackdown on empty homes
HUNDREDS of Plymouth property owners could be penalised in a Government crackdown on empty and derelict homes.
Second homeowners and landlords who do not rent out their properties are to be hit with council tax rises as ministers move to end the "madness" of a system that encourages leaving houses empty.
Councils could be given the power to slap new charges on long-term empty properties that blight their neighbourhoods.
Alison Seabeck, the MP for Plymouth Moor View, welcomed the proposals but warned that putting them into practice might be difficult. She said the council sometimes struggled to track down the owners.
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The Government has announced plans to abolish mandatory discounts on holiday homes that are used only at weekends, and to impose an extra premium on properties left vacant for more than two years.
Andrew Stunell, the Lib Dem communities minister, is to push ahead with the "empty homes premium", which will allow local authorities to charge up to 50 per cent extra on council tax for homes vacant for more than two years.
A council spokeswoman said: ""We will review the new Government proposals announced at the National Empty Homes conference that give local authorities discretionary powers to tackle empty properties and increase taxes on second homes," she said. "The council has an excellent track record of bringing empty homes back into use and brought 95 back into use in 2011/12."
Labour MP Alison Seabeck, said: "It is going to be quite difficult to enforce. We need to be clear the legislation is quite tightly drawn so there aren't ways around it. We would welcome anything sensible. We have to do something. It is unacceptable to have so many empty properties when we have got so many people needing homes."