THE owners of homes which are left empty will be hit with a double council tax bill if they continue to leave them vacant during the housing crisis.

Sandwell Council said it will charge the owners of vacant buildings double the amount of council tax if they are left empty for more than a year.

The additional 100 per cent charge only previously applied to buildings that were left empty for two years or more.

The owners of buildings that have been empty for more than a year as of April 1 will now begin to receive letters advising them of the increased charges.

Councillor Laura Rollins, cabinet member for housing, said: “We are facing a significant housing shortage in Sandwell and we cannot have homes sitting empty.

"We need 41,000 new homes by 2041.

"Having properties sitting empty only adds to the pressure on housing in the borough.

“By charging extra council tax on empty properties, we aim to increase the availability of affordable housing and reduce homelessness by bringing empty homes back into use.”

A change to the law at the end of last year gives councils the power to double council tax bills for second homes – ‘furnished homes not used as a sole or main residence.’

These extra charges will not come into force until April 2025 – but is a change from the current rules where second homes are charged an additional 100 per cent council tax from the day they become empty.

Councillor Bob Piper, deputy leader of Sandwell Council and cabinet member for finance and resources, said the extra charges for around 600 buildings would raise £800,000.

He said: “The increase in council tax charges on empty properties will affect around 600 properties that have been empty for a year.

“This will help us to raise more than £800,000 in council tax over the financial year to invest back into council services.

“Not only that, we hope this will encourage landlords and owners to not allow homes to remain empty when they could provide much-needed housing.”

Buildings that have been left empty for more than five years are charged 300 per cent more and 400 per cent more if vacant for a decade or longer.