Member Stories Rhianna Abrey 29/04/2021

An empty property, a dysfunctional PRS and the question of council tax: Ben’s story

Ben is a Cambridge-based landlord who owns a rental property in Bangor, Gwynedd. Ben was a student in Bangor during the early noughties, and his family is also originally from Cardiff.

Ben was keen to get on the property ladder from an early age and in order to work towards this ambition he started managing property whilst in his twenties. Ben has been a landlord in his own right since 2009. He is an army reservist who was called up to assist the army as part of the UK Government’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic. 

Ben purchased a property back in January 2020 and was initially able to benefit from a council tax exemption for a six-month period. After much discussion this exemption was extended by 12 months. This is a short-term measure introduced during the pandemic to combat Covid’s impact on the housing market.

During the purchase process Ben knew that he wanted to let the property to renters but was keen to thoroughly refurbish the property before taking this step. The property was in need of a major upgrade, as the interior has not been updated since the 1960s. When it was sold to Ben the property was purchased in a run-down condition, with no heating and only one gas fire available.

However, the pandemic delayed improvements due to logistical difficulties. These delays meant Ben was often unable to meet with contractors to give them guidance on what     so that they could begin work under pandemic conditions. Ben was at that time living more than 250 miles away, which also presented another practical challenge during the various lockdowns which occurred throughout 2020. 

Moreover, the tenancy commences in September of this year, meaning Ben will have paid around £2000 in council tax on the property since January 2021. With no rental income accrued during this time, Ben’s overheads have increased substantially. This state of affairs also means that much-needed private rented sector accommodation lies vacant at a time when demand for high-quality rental properties is high.

What this also proves is that there is a need for a proper plan which charts a course towards a more effective council tax system, one which addresses the ongoing problem of empty properties.

In its manifesto published in the run-up to the Welsh elections, NRLA Wales calls for a holistic approach to address this urgent issue, so that as many landlords as possible avoid the specific issues Ben has faced.