West Devon Borough Council has welcomed the closure of a tax loophole which will mean more second home owners paying council tax in the future.

It follows a campaign spearheaded by neighbours South Hams District Council and supported by West Devon to get second home owners to pay their fair share for local services.

Currently, people who own second homes in England can avoid paying council tax and access small business rates relief by declaring an intention to let the property out to holidaymakers.

The change, which will come into effect from April 2023, will see second homeowners forced to pay council tax if they cannot show they are genuinely renting out their properties on a commercial basis.

Last year the borough council lobbied the Government to close the tax loophole as part of a number of plans to address the local housing crisis.

The authority said this week it was delighted with the news, which ensured second home owners would pay their fair share for essential local services including the police and fire service whilst protecting genuine holiday lets and local tourism.

As well as ensuring that second home owners pay fairly for services, it is hoped that the new change may also see more short-term holiday let properties switch to long-term rental.

This, the council said, would help to ease the chronic shortage of long-term rental accommodation at an affordable rate, making it easier for local families to remain in the communities they love.

A council spokesperson said: ‘This is excellent news and could deliver a real benefit in the context of the initiatives that we are looking to introduce as a council in response to the present housing crisis.

‘It’s only right that second home owners should pay into the local community. We welcome all visitors, but local residents should not have to subsidise services for them.

‘This change makes sure everyone will pay fairly, whilst protecting our genuine holiday lets and tourism industry.’

Under the new rules, holiday lets must be rented out for a minimum of 70 days a year to qualify for business rates. Holiday let owners will have to provide evidence such as the website or brochure used to advertise the property, letting details and receipts. Properties will also have to be available to be rented out for 140 days a year to qualify for this relief.

The news, however, received a guarded response from Okehampton town councillor Jan Goffey, who has launched a personal campaign calling on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to ban the use of badly-needed homes as holiday lets.

Former mayor Cllr Goffey, who made it clear her online plea to the premier was her own idea and not council policy, said: ‘I don’t think it (the ending of the taxt loophole) will do much, because it will still give people wriggle room to get around it.

‘What it’s doing is tinkering around the edges of the problem and I believe what we need is something more radical.’