Council tax to double for owners of empty homes

Council tax could double on empty houses
Council tax could double on empty houses

People who own empty houses in Fife will have their council tax DOUBLED – to encourage them to bring the homes back into use.

With Fife facing a massive housing crisis – there are 12,000 people on waiting and transfer lists – the Council doesn’t want to see properties lying empty.

So councillors have agreed owners who don’t bring their properties back into use will be hit financially.

It’s estimated that around 1200 dwellings in Fife could be affected by the move, which would lead to additional income for the Council of around £1.1 million.

However, Les Robertson, revenue services manager, said: “It should be noted that whilst implementation of these powers will raise additional revenues for Fife Council, that is not the overriding aim of this policy.

“The aim is to encourage owners of long-term empty properties to bring these back into use.”

Councillor Peter Grant, SNP group leader, said it was never intended that the council tax should be used in this way, but added: “If we can bring even 500-600 houses back into use at no net cost to the tax payer, then it’s a good deal to me.”

Many of the empty properties are believed to be flats above shops in Fife’s high streets, and bringing them back into use would also assist with attempts to revitalise and revive town centres.

St Andrews councillor, Dorothea Morrison, expressed concern that owners who took on a derelict or dilapidated property with the intention of doing it up could be penalised, but housing officials confirmed that there would be scope to provide exemptions on a case-by-case basis.

In addition, properties being actively marketed for sale or let would not be subject to the levy for a period of up to 24 months.

The higher charge is set to come into effect in Fife from April 2014.

It follows changes in Scottish Government regulations which were brought in earlier this year, allowing Council’s to charge up to 200 per cent council tax on long-term empty properties.

It will only relate to long-term empty properties – homes which are occupied for less than 25 days in a year.

Owners of second homes will not be affected by the charge.

Councillor David Ross, depute Council leader and executive spokesman for housing, said: “We have a housing crisis here in Fife, and if we can free up houses by this method, then we should do so.”