Chichester landlords criticise district council policy

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LANDLORDS have criticised a policy which they say will punish people who try to improve the quality and quantity of housing.

Three landlord representatives attended a cabinet meeting of Chichester District Council last Thursday (December 4).

They questioned its policy which says private sector landlords have to pay council tax on properties which are empty between tenancies if no major structural repairs are being undertaken.

The landlords said this meant that if they needed to do refurbishment work, they would have to pay council tax during that time.

They said it felt like a punishment for helping the economy by working to put a previously-derelict property back on to the market or to improve living standards for residents.

Susan Bryer, from the National Landlords Association, asked why the cabinet had not chosen to get rid of this ‘unfair’ and ‘costly penalty’ to landlords.

“These void periods are often vital and may be the only chance a landlord can get access to the property to carry out any modernisation, redecoration, or upgrade the energy efficiency of the property.

“The council is keen to drive up standards, but this is an unfair cost and obstacle for a landlord who is trying to work with the council and take the correct action.”

Tony Dignum, cabinet member for finance, said the policy would be considered again next year.

However, landlord Glenn Jones argued that was what the cabinet said last year. Cllr Dignum replied: “We have to quantify the cost to the tax payer for making that sort of decision.

“We considered the request for a one-month grace period.

“The financial cost to the tax payer would be a quarter-of-a-million pounds a year.

“This would impact on the district council, West Sussex County Council, police authority and parishes.”

The estate agents also asked cabinet members if a landlords’ forum could be put back into place.

When they were told one already existed, Mr Jones said: “I obviously missed the existence of the forum for the last 20 years.

“A lot of landlords in the city know nothing about this.”

Cllr Carol Purnell said anyone wishing to have their email added to the contacts list should inform her so they can receive notification of meeting dates.

The debate was part of the cabinet’s discussion on the council tax base. Members agreed there would be no council tax discount for second homes in 2015/16.

They also agreed there would be no discount for vacant, unoccupied and ‘substantially unfurnished’.

However, unoccupied properties in need of or undergoing major repair will receive a 100 per cent discount on council tax.

Members also agreed an empty home premium of 50 per cent.