Council raise over £260k from tax
Empty homes charge proves to be a windfall
West Lothian Council has raised over £260,000 since it introduced the double council tax charge for empty homes in April.
As of August 31 the council has raised a total of £262,471 from 245 properties until the year end on March 31, 2019.
The double council tax charge for empty homes was introduced on April 1 in a bid to bring longterm unoccupied homes back into use.
Over the last year the number of long term unoccupied properties in West Lothian has reduced by 42 per cent.
George Paul, executive councillor for services for the community, said: “There is a huge demand for homes in West Lothian, with currently close to 8700 applicants looking for social housing on the Common Housing Register.
“It’s vital we look at every avenue to increase the number of homes available, and we hope this move will encourage those with empty homes to bring them back into use.“
A council spokesperson added: “The increase in the Council Tax charge for long term unoccupied properties is part of a holistic approach to encourage owners of empty properties to bring them back in to use.
“Social and financial benefits include increasing the supply of housing for those who need homes and reducing the impact on communities caused by houses being left empty.”
Miles Briggs, Conservative MSP for Lothian, called the introduction a “win win” situation.
He said: “I thoroughly approve of West Lothian Council’s decision to introduce double council tax for empty homes.
“The policy is a win win, reducing the number of empty homes and raising much needed additional revenue for the council.
“With the current lack of housing available in West Lothian, having houses lying empty just doesn’t make any sense.
“I would expect to see a significant reduction in homes left empty in West Lothian over the next few years.”
Owners of empty homes in West Lothian can obtain assistance, information and advice from West Lothian Council to bring their properties back into use, either for rent or sale.
Possible options include renting out your property through the council, which offers a guaranteed rental with no void rent loss periods for a minimum 12 month period, or selling your empty home to the council if it meets the criteria.
If a property is being actively marketed for sale or let, owners may be entitled to a reduction of 50 per cent for a period of up to 24 months from the date the property was last occupied, as long as sufficient evidence can be provided to show the property is being actively marketed.
Support Cllr Paul backed the scheme