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Responding to the Scottish Government’s consultation on the increasing council tax premiums for second and empty homes, Propertymark’s members are strongly against this approach, especially for second homes, and it is recommended homeowners should be incentivised to bring empty homes back into use.

The proposals looked at the possibility of councils having additional powers giving them the discretion to charge up to 100% premium (double the full rate) on council tax for second homes and charge more than 100% premium on council tax for second homes and long-term empty homes.

No substitute for homebuilding

Empty homes are often empty for a reason and the current incentives to let a second home as a holiday let (rather than offer it in the PRS) outweigh the additional council tax premium. Many of our members expressed that building new homes, for the social and private rented sectors as well as for homeowners, would be more effective than converting existing stock.

Since 2010, the number of empty and second homes has risen considerably. The Scottish Government’s Housing to 2040 strategy, published in 2021, outlines their aim to deliver 100,000 affordable homes over the next decade through various means, one of which is looking at how empty homes can be brought back into use and how local authorities can make best use of available housing stock.

Thresholds for non-domestic rates

The consultation also questions whether changes should be made to letting thresholds for self-catering accommodation for non-domestic rates. The current threshold is that a property must be available to let for 140 days or more, and actually let for 70 days or more, in each financial year. No specific proposals for change are made by the Scottish Government, and Propertymark does not consider thresholds to be a significant factor in the rising supply of short-term lets.

Addressing the cause in Wales

We previously commented on a similar consultation in Wales, where 79% of respondents felt that council tax premiums would have very little or no effect in tackling housing issues

Propertymark lobbying

Our campaigning helped lead to the Welsh Government's announcement of a National Empty Homes Grant scheme in January 2023, which provides grants for people to renovate their empty homes to bring them back into use. This addresses one of the causes, which is that homeowners want to renovate the property but do not yet have the finances to do so.

We have also continuously campaigned alongside Action on Empty Homes to help create awareness around the issue of empty homes in the UK. In 2022, Propertymark wrote to the Secretary of State for Levelling up, Housing and Communities calling for action. It is estimated there are 200,000 homes that are empty across the UK so creating homes that people can live in from empty properties saves substantial amounts of materials compared to building new homes.