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Own an empty property in Crawley? You will have to pay more council tax

Crawley Borough Council’s Cabinet agreed plans to increase Council Tax rates for empty properties at its meeting last Wednesday (25 September).

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The decision was made to increase rates to incentivise property owners to bring them back into occupation.

Currently, owners of empty properties are required to pay an additional 50 per cent on top of the normal rate of tax according to the property’s banding. However, amendments to the Rating and Council Tax Act 2018 enables local authorities to apply a higher rate to any properties that have remained unoccupied and unfurnished for more than two years.

The changes will take place from 1 April 2020 and the increased rate of Council Tax will be decided depending on the number of years the property has remained vacant.

In Crawley there are currently:

  • 13 properties that have remained vacant for between two and five years. The owners of these properties would be required to pay a 100 per cent increase from April 2020
  • Five properties that have remained vacant for five years or more. The owners would be required to pay a 200 per cent increase from April 2020
  • Five properties that have remained vacant for more than 10 years. The owners would be required to pay a 300 per cent increase from April 2021.

If these properties remain empty, the increase in Council Tax will bring in an additional £53,913, with the council retaining 11.5p for every £1 billed (£6,200), West Sussex County Council receiving 77.8p and the Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner receiving 10.7p.

Leader of the Council, Councillor Peter Lamb, said:

“The demand for housing is ever increasing and while the council is progressing with the development of new properties, it’s important to ensure that existing properties are being utilised.

“While the number of empty properties in Crawley is low, the increased rates will help encourage property owners to bring them back into use and contribute to the housing need in the town.”

For more details on Council Tax visit crawley.gov.uk/counciltax

Property

Cost of maintaining a buy-to-let hits £12k a year in parts of the UK

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Leading property management platform, Howsy, has looked at the cost of maintaining a buy-to-let property each year and how this varies across the UK.  

Buy-to-let can be a tricky business if you don’t tackle it properly and there are a whole host of costs that can trip up the amateur investor. From the more obvious additional three percent stamp duty tax, to various other tax implications, void periods, mortgage costs, agency fees, the cost of finding a tenant, and more, Howsy’s previous research shows the average buy-to-let brings an annual return of just £2,000.

With the Government’s continued attack on UK landlords, making the most out of your investment financially can be tough and even when you consider all financial commitments for a property, many can still be caught unaware by out of the blue maintenance and repair costs. 

Buy-to-let landlords should squirrel away savings in anticipation of these events and an industry rule of thumb is an annual budget equivalent to 1% of your property’s value. 

So what does that equate to?  

Across the UK landlords should be tucking away an annual budget of £2,344 to cover repairs and maintenance, with this rising to £4,746 in London, with the North East home to the lowest repair costs at just £1,328. 

Of course, markets with higher rent returns may seem promising from an investment standpoint but the higher the reward, the higher the cost when things do go wrong. In Kensington and Chelsea, this annual 1% saving climbs to an eye-watering £12,292, hitting nearly £9,000 in both the Cities of London and Westminster.  

Outside of London, South Bucks and Elmbridge are home to the most expensive buy-to-let maintenance costs at £6,091 and £6,019 respectively.

Head to the likes of Burnley or Blaenau Gwent however, and this yearly maintenance budget drops to less than £1,000 a year.

Founder and CEO of Howsy, Calum Brannan, commented: 

“The buy-to-let sector can be a minefield for the amateur investor and now more than ever, it’s imperative that you do everything you can to maximise the return on your investment.

While technology now allows a greater level of control and service when managing your investment at a lower cost via online platforms, it isn’t just about the financial side of things. Providing a fit for purpose property is not only a legal requirement but essential to ensure a happy tenancy and a reduction in void periods.

Of course, things can go wrong and having the budget available to fix them is a must. In the worst-case scenarios, a cash pot equal to one percent of your property’s value might not be sufficient, but it should cover you for most eventualities and is a good benchmark to start on.

As with all buy-to-let investments, good preparation, organisation, and education are key, and whether you go it alone or have a great management agent if you stay on top of things, a bricks and mortar investment is still one of the best you can make.” 

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