Government Bill could penalise the owners of empty properties

26 March 2012

The Scottish Government moved a step closer to a proposed crackdown on empty homes today with the introduction of the Local Government Finance (Unoccupied Properties etc.) (Scotland) Bill. If enacted, the Bill will allow the Scottish Ministers to enact Regulations, which would potentially allow local authorities to charge up to double the usual rate of Council Tax on properties which are empty for long periods of time.

The Regulations following on from the Bill would giLocal Authorities more flexibility in terms of their charges on empty homes. It is envisaged that homes will be exempt from Council Tax for 6 months when they first become empty with it then becoming payable (but with a discount of between 10 and 50%) for a further six months. Once properties have been empty for a year, the Bill would allow Councils to charge up to 200% of the normal rate of Council Tax on the empty homes.

The notes which accompany the new Bill state that the Government hopes that the punative charges will encourage owners leaving their properties empty to sell them or rent them out, reducing the problem of empty homes which it feels blights communities. It is hoped that some flexibility can be built into the system for those who can show they are actively marketing their properties for sale or rent, or those who are struggling to sell will be doubly penalised by the proposed provisions.

The owners of empty commercial properties, such as the empty shops which can currently be seen on many Scottish high streets, could also suffer if the Bill is enacted. Their discount in business rates could be reduced to as little as 10%, meaning that properties which are already failing to generate income will incur another added cost; hopefully an incentive to their owners to ensure they are occupied.

It should be mentioned that the Bill is only a first stage of a long process: if enacted, it will then be for the Scottish Ministers to determine in detail the powers to be conferred on Local Authorities. The Authorities themselves will then have the task of determining exactly how to use these powers. You can view the Bill and read more about the Government’s plans here.

If you are struggling to sell your property, Inksters can assist in the marketing of domestic and commercial property in Scotland, be it in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Shetland or elsewhere, and you may be surprised at the unique range of innovative solutions we offer to help properties sell. Please contact Brian Inkster on 0141 229 0880 or send Brian an e-mail  and he will be happy to talk you through our services.

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