A LETTING agency boss fears landlords may be forced to increase private rent costs if the council chooses to bring in proposed changes to tax discounts for empty properties.

In April 2013 the Government allowed authorities to change the level of council tax discount for certain empty buildings and second homes – Warrington Borough Council (WBC) implemented some of these changes last year.

It is now considering further amendments to the scheme.

Currently, if a property becomes empty and unfurnished there is no council tax charge for a maximum of three months but this would be reduced to one month if the change is introduced.

Properties that are empty and unfurnished for less than two years get a 25 per cent council tax discount after three months, although no council tax discount would be given after one month under new rules.

Manoj Patel, director at Hamlet Homes, believes any future changes are 'likely to' financially impact on taxpayers and private tenants in the long-term.

"Landlords' costs have increased significantly as a result of recent budget reforms and are likely to increase further when interest rates are increased from their current record low," he said.

"Increasing costs to private landlords will inevitably result in rent increases to cover the additional expense and avoid operating at a loss.

"We are concerned that this will affect private tenants significantly at a time when austerity measures have strained household budgets."

Mr Patel also believes any changes will increase the 'administrative burden' on WBC and 'significantly impact' on the level of council housing stock available for those who need it.

He added: "The proposed changes would inevitably result in more families - who are already struggling to make ends meet - being simply unable to afford their rent.

"In turn those families will be forced to look to WBC as a housing authority for assistance.

"In the event that the council needs to place families into temporary accommodation, the costs of doing so to the authority will be significantly increased.

"The council does not appear to have performed any proper impact assessment – we are concerned that the modest additional tax raised by the proposed measure will be significantly outweighed by the wider unintended consequences."

The council believes empty homes can have a financial and environmental impact on the area.

But it is 'committed' to ensuring all residents have the opportunity to have their say on any changes and is welcoming the views from those across the town.

The closing date for responses is September 18 and a final decision will be made by January 31, with changes to come in from next April.

For further information visit warrington.gov.uk or warringtonproperty.blogspot.co.uk.