Kent’s second home owners to see council tax bills double

Second homes

By Local Democracy Reporter Daniel Esson

Thousands of homes across the county sit empty for much of the year, used mainly for weekend getaways and holiday breaks.

But new rules set to be introduced by every council in Kent mean those enjoying the luxury of owning a second residence will soon have to pay a premium for it:

A council tax bill for £2,302 a month lands on the doormat of a house in Broadstairs.

It’s not until weeks later it’s picked up by the homeowners, who’ve travelled down from London for a weekend break on the Kent coast.

The house is one of two they own – their main residence in the capital – and sits empty for the majority of the year, although they pay their council tax like everyone else.

But soon they’ll be forced to fork out a heftier price for the privilege – £4,604 in this hypothetical case for a Band D home.

Because Thanet District Council, and all of its counterparts across Kent, have voted to double council tax bills for second home owners.

With more than 7,500 such properties in the county, the move is set to bolster the coffers of cash-strapped local authorities.

But it is also designed to discourage second home ownership, with many believing it will free up properties for those who need them amid a housing crisis in Kent.

Green councillor Mike Garner

“Homes are residences for people to live in, they’re not investment opportunities – or at least they shouldn’t be,” says Thanet district councillor Mike Garner.

He’s one of many who supported bringing in the new rules, which will be introduced in every district across Kent from next April.

Under the Levelling Up and Regeneration Act 2023 – passed in October – local councils were given the power to charge extra council tax on second homes, and they’ve been quick to take up the opportunity.

While recognising Thanet – Kent’s hotspot with almost 2,000 second homes – is an attractive destination to buy an extra property, Cllr Garner says the new rules should go even further.

“It’s a good step in the right direction, but I’d like to see councils have the ability to increase [bills] quicker, because I think we should be discouraging people from having second homes,” said the Green Party member for St Peter’s Ward in Broadstairs.

“I’m not saying they should be confiscated, you can’t do that, but it is galling.

“On the one hand you have plans for thousands of houses to be built on Grade One agricultural land, while on the other we see thousands of houses sitting empty or not being used as primary residences, and it doesn’t add up.”

So what exactly is a second home, and who will be forced to cough up?

Well, essentially it’s a furnished property that isn’t used as a primary residence or rented out.

It means the new charges will not apply to homes on the standard rental market or those let out as Airbnbs on a short-term basis.

Any home being actively marketed for sale or rent will also be exempt.

Canterbury city councillor Chris Cornell owns three properties but will not be hit by the council tax premium on the extra two.

He previously rented both out as holiday homes, but now lets them long-term to private tenants.

He believes the new rules are fair, and that those who own unoccupied second homes should have to pay extra for the luxury.

“I think it’s worth saying that it’s not a silver bullet – but essentially it is a practical first step,” said the Labour member for Gorrell Ward in Whitstable.

“I don’t think there’s a principled problem [with second home ownership] as long as they appreciate that they have to pay a premium for it.

“I think if people have bought a second home they should expect to essentially be taxed more, and local authorities should do all they can to encourage the provision of good-quality private accommodation for people who live in their area; that should be their predominant concern.”

Paula Higgins, founder and chief executive of the Homeowners Alliance, says implementing the charges is a “no-brainer” for councils short on cash, with TDC alone saying the move will net it an extra £540,800 a year.

She supports the premiums, but argues that for many who own second homes as a “lifestyle choice”, higher bills may not encourage them to sell up or rent out.

She even believes some owners could bypass the new rules by renting their properties out for 70 days a year, seeing them taxed as small businesses rather than private homes.

“What it could do is it could cause people to avoid the council tax additional rate and turn it into a business by renting it out for a certain number of days of the year and paying business rates,” she explained.

Ms Higgins is also pessimistic about how the move will help address a housing crisis caused in part by a lack of affordable homes and fewer rental properties available at reasonable rates.

“Even the money raised on the second homes tax by local authorities – that money isn’t going to be ploughed back into affordable housing,” she continued.

“There’s lots of reasons why houses aren’t being built and this money will go back into the local authority’s coffers – it will do nothing to help the housing crisis.”

New legislation

The new legislation will also bolster existing powers local authorities have to charge extra council tax on long-term empty homes – properties that are substantially unfurnished and unoccupied.

Previously, owners of homes empty for two years were charged double council tax, but this timeframe is being reduced to one year from next April.

Those with homes empty for five years will still pay three times as much, and four-fold for properties unoccupied for a decade or more.

Councils in Kent estimate the new rates for second homes and empty properties will generate them an extra £3.77 million a year combined.

Medway, with 341 second homes and 392 empty properties, will bag the most, at just over £1 million.

Other areas have more homes set to attract the higher rates, but presumably in lower council tax bands.

Gravesham has just 21 second homes and 148 unoccupied properties, so stands to rake in just £18,000 more – the lowest in Kent.


  1. Ok so answer me this question….

    Supposedly 7,889 second homes and 4,155 empty properties will see their “council tax doubled”, bringing in £3.77 million to Kent councils, that works out as an average of £313.02 per property. Are these number is ignoring what KCC will receive or is only the district element being doubled, so the overall bill isn’t being doubled??

    If 12,000 properties are having “council tax doubled”, even at a conservative £2,000 per property, that would be £24million into the Kent coffers overall??

    Something doesn’t add up here, am I missing something?

    • Rather expect it will be because , many of the empty properties are already paying additional council tax, bringing it for ward a year or so won’t add that much and there are plenty of exemptions , plus as a total of the number of homes in the whole of Kent it’s pretty much a rounding error.
      As for the 8000 second homes, some will get sold or revert to the residential rental market , plus there will be those held in such a manner that they remain exempt, either because they are claimed to be someones primary residence or will comply with the new holiday let regimes yet to be disclosed ( possibly similar to wales when the number of days let is much higher in order to qualify for business rates) the years delay to decide on what’s to be done likely to be to give time to speak to local authorities inmorder to come up with a framework that covers the most ground , even thanet councillors concede that there is a need for some such holiday let provision.
      Work your way through that and you end up with a much smaller tax take than the headline figures suggest, which seeing as its intended to nudge property back into the long term residential market is perfectly sensible.

  2. The problem is that it is so easy to avoid the extra tax.

    A couple own their main house in London and also a second home in Thanet. All they have to do is register one of the couple’s main home as the London property and one of the couple’s main home as the Thanet property. They will then get 25% single resident discount on both and completely avoid the extra Council Tax charges the Councils are bringing in.

    It’s great in principle but easy to swerve in practice.

    • These rules are madness as easily got round.
      Example: They will simply put their property on Airbnb for rental, either rent for 2 days, or turn down renters. Bingo…that avoided paying.

      The Councils will not be sifting through online rentals to check either.
      Silly rules as highly dodgeball.

      Should be …second home pays double unless renting on a minimum 1 years residential rental contract through an agent. That simple.

      • So no one wanting a home for less than a year would be able to get one unless they were willing to pay double council tax?
        Also where do these proposals leave contract workers that have a permanent home address but rent places as they move from job to job?

    • And it was announced in the budget that changes will be made , so just need to wait and see what they’ll be from next april.

  3. Whether Mike Garner likes it or not, property is a very sound investment vehicle. And many of these second home owners have taken on houses that were in disrepair and renovated them. We should be grateful for that.

        • I will look in the morning. The Local Democracy stuff goes through editing before it is put in the portal where I (and others) have access but I can go back to him if there is an issue

      • Poach him!

        Seriously, he made a story of little interest to me seem like the start of a gripping novel.

  4. It’s strange that air b&b is not included given numerous labour councillors as reported in previous iO Thanet articles stated what a bad effect air B&b was having on the local community , as well as distorting the rental market, driving up rental costs for longer term rentals and restricting the number of longer rentals available due to the lucrative income achieved for Airb&b.

    • Not strange at all, they would be includedvif they didn’t meet the number of days let threshold that means they qualify for business rates.
      However it was announced in the recent budget that from next year the tax regime for short term holiday lets will change, so it remains to be seen what that change is.
      But as mentioned in other posts, there are ways around it. It should als be remembered that thanet has insufficient hotel accomodation to meet peak demand, whilst also having too little out of season demand to make investing in more hotels viable. So there needs to be a measured response or else it threatens the local economy that’s reliant on visitors.

      • Great, does that mean our streets will be weeded,litter picked up and roads swept.Bet it don’t.

    • It should also be borne in mind that a basic 2 bed flat in thanet in 2003 was 450 a month, inflation takes that figure to 790 , then on top of that you have all the additional legislative costs that landlords need to deal with, along with increased taxation, in any business the customer has to pay for these, renting is no different.

      Then last but not least another effect of these additional costs is that significant numbers of landlords have decided to sell up as well as there being fewer properties bought by landlords to supply has reduced despite increased demand.

      It should also be remembered that the high rents are generally associated with new tenancies, many tenants in existing tenancies pay substantially less.

      But of course many people don’t bother to look beyond the headlines.

  5. Seems very shortsighted. We’ve had a second home in Margate for a couple of years and spend a fair amount in the local area. I would argue this does more to benefit locals than money in the council’s pocket where there is no guarantee it will be spent on housing

    • Very little thought has gone into it, it’s coming upto an election and so scores cheap points.

      Local councils complain about lack of money, not enough housing and notional additional burden on services ( whilst conveniently ignoring the benefits).
      Government ( who encouraged the furnished holiday let sector with very generous tax breaks) change the rules to allow councils to raise more cash, the councils then do so, those negatively affected are told by central gov. “We only gave councils the option of tools they could use, direct your ire at them”, those that agree with the move get told “ we listened to the issues raised and have bought in very effective legislation”.
      Reduces the demands for extra central government funding ( for a while) might bring a few homes into the residential sector, any loss of economic activities in affected areas can be blamed on the councils involved.

      Westminster should probably look at the carnage it’s creating in the welsh holiday industry ( where the welsh assembly is quietly back pedalling on some of its proposed additional changes) before getting too carried away.
      Just more meddling to try and avoid the big issue of population growth being way too high and housebuilding way too low in a low skill low wage economy that can afford neither.

  6. Second home owners already pay extra stamp duty! I bought a run down house in Ramsgate and pumped a lot of money into restoring it. All with local trade companies.

    I spend half the week here as its my house while my wife has hers in London that she had before we were married.

    I fail to see why I have to pay more council tax to a council that just pumped money into Thanet Parkway. They should be charging themselves unoccupied tax for that place.

  7. It’s nothing more than the politics of envy and an ability to tax a relatively illiquid asset. A sad reflection on a nation unable to support itself via normal taxation of earnings. Things will just continue to decline, likely even faster under labour. Just wait until such time as the money markets lose faith in the british economy and punish us with increased borrowing costs.

  8. Totally agreed Philip it seems people investing in Thanet are being ripped of by the council and people who are not putting a penny just taking from investors tax and hard work typical of greedy councils they need to stop paying millions on train stations and benefit cheats tidy up he town drug smoking drunks vandals instead charging double to people who are improving Thanet

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