THOUSANDS of property owners will have to pay council tax on second homes as soon as they become empty, under new plans.

Basildon Council’s cabinet passed proposals to start charging 50 per cent council tax on 7,055 empty homes in the borough from 2014/15.

The Tory authority claims the move will encourage owners to sell or let second houses.

Previously, owners were exempt from paying the tax on those homes for the first six months after their purchase.

The new rules could bring in an extra £668,000, much of it going to Essex County Council.

Stuart Sullivan, Basildon councillor responsible for resources, said: “As part of the Localism Act, the Government has given us greater freedom to determine council tax liability.

“This has enabled us to make changes that will not only generatemuch- needed revenue, but also invigorate the housing market by encouraging owners of empty properties to get them back into use to benefit our community.”

After six months, owners will have to pay full council tax.

Echo reader Kathryn Evans told our Facebook page: “That sucks. I have a property in Basildon and whenever it is empty it is because I have evicted a tenant for non-payment of rent.

“Then I have to scrub the house, redecorate and fix damage “This has taken me a couple of months as I work full time, which means I’m without any income from the property – still having to pay the mortgage and asking me to pay the council tax will be totally unfair.”

The authority is also proposing to cut the discount homeowners get for their empty homes when are having work done, or require a major refit.

They would be exempt from paying the tax for 12 months, but now will have to start paying half the bill straight away.

At the moment, that will affect 121 homes in the borough.