Watford Borough Council is set to double council tax premiums on long-term empty homes – with the threat of further increases over the next two years.

The decision was taken during a cabinet meeting on Monday (February 11) as an incentive for owners of such properties to bring them back into use.

Since 2013, local authorities in England have been able to charge a council tax premium of up to 50 per cent on long-term empty dwellings, on top of usual council tax fees.

These are homes that have remained unoccupied for two or more years.

Watford Borough Council currently applies a 50 per cent premium on such properties, but from April that charge will increase to 100 per cent; then in April 2020, to 200 per cent for properties that have been empty for more than five years; and from April 2021, that premium will increase to 300 per cent for properties empty for more than ten years.

Housing charity Shelter said such homes are a contributing factor to the national housing crisis.

Elected Mayor of Watford Peter Taylor said: “Watford doesn’t have as many empty homes as other areas, but we are still determined to take this issue very seriously.

“Leaving properties empty for years is something we want to discourage. We are using the powers we have to encourage people to do the right thing and bring empty properties back into use so that there are more homes available.”