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The rate of council tax could be doubled by local councils across England on properties left vacant for years as part of government plans to fix the country’s broken housing market.

If properties are left standing empty for two years or more, local authorities will be able to charge more council tax, with funds from this premium used to keep tax levels down for working families.

At the moment, there are just over 200,000 long-term empty properties in England, compared to the 300,000 back in 2010. In 2013, councils were granted the power to charge a 50 per cent premium on council tax bills and the majority of local authorities currently apply a 50 per cent premium on long-term empty houses.

It’s worth noting, however, that there will be a council tax exemption on properties left empty because of probate.

Announcing the plans, Rishi Sunak – local government minister – said: “his new power will equip councils with the tools they need to encourage owners of long-term empty properties to bring them back into use – and at the same time tackle the harmful effect they have on communities through squatting, vandalism and anti-social behaviour.”

At the start of last month (March), local councils were also warned that if they fail to build the houses that Britain needs they’ll no longer have the right to decide where properties are constructed.

Housing secretary Sajid Javid said authorities would be given higher targets for housebuilding and those that don’t meet these targets will have planning powers removed.

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