Half of Kent councils not using empty homes power

Empty home (generic) There are currently 5,000 empty homes in Kent and 50,000 people on the housing waiting list

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Nearly half of councils in Kent have not used their powers against property owners who leave their homes empty for two or more years.

Local authorities are able to charge an extra 50% in council tax, but BBC Radio Kent has discovered six of 13 councils have not done so.

The empty homes premium was introduced in April 2013.

It has been estimated there are 5,000 empty homes in Kent and 50,000 people on the housing waiting list.

Tonbridge and Malling, Dover, Canterbury, Medway, Thanet and Swale councils have not utilised their powers.

Ashford, Dartford, Sevenoaks, Gravesham, Shepway, Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells all have.

'Fell into disrepair'

Councillor Susan Howes, who leads planning on Gravesham Borough Council, said most of the empty properties are not owned by landlords.

"Sometimes a landlord might only have one or two properties and they fell into disrepair," she said.

"It could be someone who has just inherited a property and they don't know what to do with it - so they've left it empty for a while.

"We're talking long-term empty, not landlords who have a good turnover on their property."

Communities Minister Stephen Williams said it was "up to councils" whether they use the powers or not.

"This government has given councils the local discretion to remove council tax subsidies given to empty homes and to impose a premium on long-term empty homes," he said.

"This will help get empty homes back into productive use and raise funds to keep the overall rate of council tax down."

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