A consultation is being held over proposals to increase a council tax premium paid by the owners of empty homes in Charnwood.
The borough council is seeking views on possible changes to the empty homes premium following new powers given to local authorities by the Government.
There are more than 200,000 properties across the country which have been empty for six months or more and in Charnwood that figure is just under 500.
The borough council is keen to encourage home-owners to bring the properties back into use – either by selling them or renting them out.
The Council currently levies a 50 per cent premium on council tax to anyone who has a property which has been empty for two years. The extra money goes into funding the same services as normal council tax.
The Council is considering increasing the empty homes premium in Charnwood to 100 per cent from April next year and is seeking views on that and some other proposed changes.
Cllr Paul Mercer, lead member for housing, said: “Empty homes are not only a wasted resource, but they can act as a magnet for vandals and have an adverse impact on the local area.
“Getting properties back into use is a win-win situation because they can provide homes for people and generate income for the owners either through a sale or rent.
“The Government is expanding the powers available to councils regarding the empty homes premium and we are considering using them to get properties back into use. I would encourage owners to take part in the consultation.”
Cllr Roy Rollings, lead member for customer services, said: “We are committed to consulting people on a range of issues and we would welcome the views of residents on this important issue.”
The average band D council tax bill in Loughborough is currently £1,698. Anyone paying the empty homes premium currently would be charged £2,547. Under the proposed new charge of 100 per cent, that bill would be £3,396.
There are exemptions to the premium, such as for people serving in the Armed Forces.
As part of the changes, the Council is also considering whether to increase the empty homes premium to 200 per cent for properties which have been empty for five years and then 300 per cent for properties which have been empty for 10 years.
The Council also wants views on changing the current arrangements for the discount for unoccupied or uninhabitable properties. Currently, if a property is uninhabitable owners get a 50 per cent discount for 12 months on council tax. The Council is considering changing that to 100 per cent for six months to encourage property owners to bring homes back into use sooner.
To have a say please visit http://www.charnwood.gov.uk/ctconsultation.
The consultation runs until January 6. Following the consultation, the Council's Cabinet will make a recommendation to full council about whether to introduce any changes to the premium.