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Local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales have considerable discretion over the levels of council tax discount available on unoccupied properties. They may require full council tax payment from the owners of empty second homes, properties undergoing major repair, or properties that are ‘unoccupied and substantially unfurnished’. There are a small number of mandatory exemptions to this power.

Local authorities may also set an ‘empty homes premium’ for properties that have been empty for over a specified period. The maximum amount of the premium, and the scenarios in which the premium may be levied, vary between England, Scotland and Wales.

In Wales, a ‘second homes premium’ can be applied to properties that are empty and furnished. A second homes premium will be introduced in England from April 2025, and the Scottish Government has introduced one from April 2024.

Each country operates a number of exemptions from the empty homes premium and second homes premium, meaning that the premiums cannot be applied to certain classes of property: however, the normal rate of council tax can still be payable on properties that are exempt from a premium.

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