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Second homes could be charged double council tax in Scotland

UK: The Scottish Government and COSLA [The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities] could introduce plans to charge double the full rate of council tax for second homes in the country. 

At the Scottish Trades Union Congress, the new First Minister of Scotland, Humza Yousaf, will confirm plans to give councils the power to double the full rate of council tax on empty and second homes, starting from April 2024. The proposed change will be under consultation for 12 weeks until July.

Latest figures have shown that in January this year, there were about 42,865 long-term empty homes in the country. A default council tax discount of 50 per cent applies to second and empty homes currently, with homes being left empty for more than one year being charged double the full rate.

The consultation will also discuss potential changes to the definition of when a property offering self-catered accommodation becomes liable for non-domestic rates. This currently only happens if it is rented out for 70 nights and is available for 140 nights per financial year.

Yousaf told STV: “We want everyone in Scotland to have an affordable home that meets their needs and this work to improve the availability of sustainable long-term housing opportunities is a core part of that. By recognising the important role councils have in considering local needs, these proposals aim to strike a balance between good housing supply and helping communities to thrive and benefit from tourism.

“I encourage anyone who is interested to respond to the consultation as we try to prioritise homes for living in, seeking a fair contribution to local services from everyone and recognising the benefits to local economies from self-catering accommodation and second homes. All responses will be carefully considered before legislation is introduced to the Scottish Parliament,” he added.

But housing spokesperson for Scottish Labour, Mark Griffin, accused the Scottish Government of “tinkering around the edges”.

Griffin said: “While it is welcome to see that this SNP government is willing to listen to Labour ideas, it is a shame that all they can bring themselves to do is a pale imitation of Scottish Labour’s plans.

“Under the SNP, Scotland has developed a housing crisis that has priced thousands out of the market and left many more in precarious residential situations. Tinkering around the edges won’t do. Humza Yousaf must learn from Labour and implement a proper council tax accelerator on empty homes to fund a £1 home policy,” he added.

Last October, the Scottish Government introduced the Short-Term Lets Licensing Order [registration scheme] to enforce consistent safety standards across the country’s tourism and hospitality industries.

At the time, the government defined a short-term let as a “property or part of a property that is rented out for a short period of time”, such as for a holiday or business trip, including whole properties or rooms within a host’s home. It can refer to anything from self-catered accommodation, B&Bs, guest houses, chalets, stationary homes, boathouses, and more that are detailed on the VisitScotland website.

Meanwhile in England, holiday home owners are facing up to a potential requirement to obtain planning permission to rent out their properties under new UK Government proposals to protect affordable housing in areas with higher numbers of rental listings.

Isha Borkar

Isha joined IHM in January 2023 as a multimedia reporter. She has a master's in International Journalism from the City, University of London. Isha would like to develop herself as a multimedia reporter in the United States. She enjoys learning new languages, cooking, and reading in her free time. She looks forward to uncovering new stories around the world.