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Changes to controversial empty homes tax in Aberdeenshrie could be approved

Aberdeenshire Council
Aberdeenshire Council

A controversial policy that allows Aberdeenshire Council to multiply the council tax they charge owners of empty homes by 100% could be revised.

The local authority’s unoccupied properties council tax policy has been in effect since 2014 following changes to Scottish Government legislation.

The council currently offers six months council tax-free to unoccupied and unfurnished properties in the area, but after 12 months it charges a 100% increase.

This week the council’s policy and resources committee could approve more lenient changes to the policy.

Currently, owners of unoccupied properties may be eligible for a 10% discount on council tax payments after six months.

But now, after receiving feedback, councillors will be asked to decide if people should be exempt from the charge and be given an extended tax “holiday” after this 12-month period depending on their certain circumstances.

Such circumstances could be renovations prior to moving in, selling or letting the property, or if the house was a long-term second one that the owner had been unable to occupy for 25 days per year due to “personal circumstances”.

The changes could also be applied if the property is taking too long to sell.

Alan Wood, the council’s director of business services, said the proposed changes have been designed to ensure that “individual owners are not unfairly penalised”.

He added: “During the first quarter of 2015, the decision by committee to levy the additional charge was challenged by some customers and seen as unfair whilst they were trying hard to bring their property back into use.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said the empty property legislation was designed to increase the “availability of housing”.

She added: “Local authorities have discretionary power to remove the empty property discount or set a council tax increase on certain properties which have been empty for one year or more.

“This does not apply to second homes, which are entitled to a discount of between 10% and 50%.”

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