People are sometimes surprised that they have to pay Council Tax on empty houses. If you own a property that becomes unoccupied one of the first things to do is to check with your local authority about possible exemptions from Council Tax. The CAB website www.adviceguide.org.uk has some general guidance. Here is a brief summary of the main points for the interest of our unoccupied property insurance clients.

Properties that may be exempt include:

• Unoccupied and unfurnished – may be exempt for up to 6 months

• Unoccupied and needing major works to make it fit for habitation – 12 months max

• Condemned

• Re-possessed by lender

• Empty because former resident needs to be cared for elsewhere

• Some British Council tenants

• Unoccupied residential boat or caravan- 6 months max

• Occupants all under 18

• Occupants all have severe mental impairment

• Self contained unit where occupant is a dependent relative.

The government is currently undertaking a consultation exercise about council tax and has made a proposal to make mortgage lenders responsible for the council tax if they take possession of a property. See our blog spot for more details about this.

Do not take this as guidance on your individual case- make sure you check with the relevant experts. Also be sure to set up a specialist insurance policy; a standard household policy will probably not be suitable.