ADDITIONAL council tax charges could soon be levied on empty properties and second homes across Somerset following a decision by councillors.

Somerset has more than 2,600 empty properties, according to council tax base calculations – including nearly 100 which have been empty for at least ten years.

To encourage the owners of these properties to bring them back into use, Somerset Council has voted to introduce a 100 per cent council tax premium on those properties which have been empty for a year.

Additional charges will also be levied on second homes, which may help to ease the housing crisis in coastal areas and other parties of the county with a significant tourism industry.

As of October 2023 (the most recent figures available), there are 2,638 empty and unoccupied properties in Somerset.

The majority – 1,992 or just over 75 per cent – have been empty for less than two years.

A total of 453 properties have been empty for at least two years, with 106 being empty for at least five years and 87 homes being empty for at least a decade.

Under current laws, councils across England can charge the owners of an empty property additional council tax once the property has been empty for two years.

The charge starts at 100 per cent of the normal council tax rate, which rises to 200 per cent for properties which have been empty for five years and 300 per cent year for those left empty for ten years or more.

Under the Levelling Up and Regeneration Act 2023, Somerset Council can now start charging the additional council tax when a property has only been empty for 12 months.

This change, which will come into affect on April 1, 2024, is expected to raise an additional £1.72m of council tax, reducing the projected £87m budget gap for 2024/25.

Second homes are not currently subject to any council tax premiums – though they are also ineligible for any discounts (such as those offered to single occupants or those leaving the care system).

The presence of large quantities of second homes has put huge pressure on housing supply in the more picturesque parts of the country, including the coastal towns in the former West Somerset area (such as Minehead and Watchet) and settlements near popular tourist attractions, such as Cheddar.

From April 1, 2025, the council can charge a 100 per cent premium on empty second homes – which could generate around £4.09m.

Both of these changes were approved by the full council shortly before Christmas.