Absent homeowners face huge council tax increase

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HOMEOWNERS who leave empty properties in the Capital could be forced to pay double council tax rates in a bid to encourage them to make their house available to rent.

A task force is to be set up by Edinburgh City Council to consider ways in which privately owned vacant homes can be brought back into use to ease the Capital’s housing crisis.

It will consider using proposed government legislation to impose extra charges of up to 100 per cent of council tax rates on the owners of unoccupied properties, to encourage them to rent out the homes.

The task force is also expected to consider setting up advice services for owners of empty homes, review current practices surrounding privately owned properties and bid for cash from the Empty Homes Loan Fund, which has been set up by the Scottish Government to boost levels of affordable housing.

Cammy Day, the city’s housing leader, said: “The key point for us is that we have empty houses sitting there when we have a dire need for people to get in to decent homes.

“The Capital coalition made a commitment in May to set up this task force and I’m delighted that we have taken what is undoubtedly a major step forward in tackling this pressing issue.”

Currently, owners of 
unfurnished empty homes receive a six-month council tax exemption, and are then offered a 50 per cent discount on rates. After 12 months, they receive only a ten per cent discount.

But if the Local Government Finance (Unoccupied Properties etc.) (Scotland) Bill is passed by parliament, councils will be able to charge double rates.

Latest figures show that at the turn of the year, nearly 1500 private sector properties had been empty for more than six months in the Capital, almost 1000 of which had been vacant for a year.

Figures from last year listed 4500 families registered as homeless in Edinburgh, with around 25,000 more on the social housing waiting list.