Council tax reform ‘should encourage PRS investment’



John Blackwood
John Blackwood

A commission looking at alternatives to the council tax should tackle “flaws” in the system to encourage more investment in the private rented sector, according to representatives of landlords.

The Scottish Association of Landlords (SAL) will today tell the Commission on Local Tax reform that a replacement for the council tax in Scotland must help provide better value for tenants as well as fair treatment for landlords.

SAL has welcomed the detailed examination of the possibility of reform of the council tax system in Scotland but urged the commission to tackle key problems and encourage landlords to invest in their properties to increase value for money for tenants.  In particular, SAL called for four key reforms:

  1. Provide parity by giving landlords renovating properties the same discount as other empty houses, such as privately-owned holiday homes. This would encourage investment and upgrading of properties resulting in tenants receiving better value for money.
  2. Allow the “resetting” of the 6-month unfurnished exemption when a property is sold so the new owner, possibly a landlord, is given time to complete upgrades or repairs before being economically compelled to find a tenant.
  3. Simplifying the current system so that for a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO), where the tenants agree to take over liability for council tax, the landlord cannot be pursued for monies outstanding.
  4. Put in place a two year cut off beyond which a local authority cannot pursue property owners for Council Tax where a tenant has been responsible for paying, unless it relates to an on-going case which the landlord has already been made aware of by the Council.

John Blackwood, chief executive of the Scottish Association of Landlords, who will give oral evidence to the commission today said: “We have no fixed view concerning what form of local tax should replace the council tax but we do believe this is an opportunity to fix flaws in the current system.

“In particular, we feel there are disincentives which mean landlords might be dissuaded from investing in upgrades or non-emergency repairs because of the lack of council tax discounts available to other groups.  By ending these practices, landlords would be able to invest more easily in their properties and provide a better service for tenants.

“A strong Private Rented Sector providing value for money for tenants is not only of benefit for landlords and our customers but also to the local authority by adding to the high-quality housing stock in a given area.  I look forward to discussing these points with commission members in more detail today and hope they will take them on-board in their final report.”

@scotlandlord



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