Double tax on second homes will bring in £800,000

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is set to double the council tax payable on second homes and empty houses in an effort to boost revenue and increase housing supply.
The issue was discussed at the council this week.The issue was discussed at the council this week.
The issue was discussed at the council this week.

​The move will affect around 840 houses throughout the islands and is expected to bring in an estimated £800,000 extra in the coming financial year.

A second home is classed as any home that is not used as someone’s primary residence but is occupied for at least 25 days in a year.

The recommendation to go for the maximum 200 per cent of full council tax follows a change in legislation last year which allowed local authorities to raise the premium to that level.

The charge is applicable to all second homes except those that are being actively marketed for sale or long-term let. These owners will be given six months grace from the date on which the sale or let is advertised.

However, the surcharge will not affect short-term lets, such as Air B&B properties which are normally subject to non-domestic rates.

On empty houses, a Comhairle spokesman said: “A property that is unoccupied and unfurnished is classified as empty and therefore subject to the 200 per cent long term empty charge from one year after it was last occupied as a main residence”.

However, he added: “There are a small number of exceptions to this.”

The Western Isles has one of the highest proportions of second homes in Scotland, at around six per cent of the total housing stock and creating housing pressures in a number of communities. The average council tax charge is almost £1300 per annum rising to £2500 for larger properties.

Whether doubling this for second homes will have any impact on the local housing market will be watched closely, particularly in second home hot-spots like Barra, Harris and the Uig area of Lewis, where property prices are exorbitantly high for young families who want to set up a home in these communities.