Owners of empty West Dunbartonshire homes could benefit from Council Tax changes
In April 2014, West Dunbartonshire Council was keen to get local empty homes back into use and introduced a policy which meant owners of empty homes could be liable to pay 200 per cent Council Tax.
Discretions on this charge were introduced in July 2015 which exempted owners if they could prove they were making efforts to refurbish their home to live in, or were actively marketing the property but experiencing delays beyond their control.
Councillors agreed this month that residents would be entitled to a refund backdated to April 2014 if they matched the above criteria and had been billed for the additional Council Tax.
Residents now have six months to contact the council to apply for a refund or adjustment of outstanding Council Tax debt. They will need to supply evidence to support their claim for exemption.
In a further change, any new owners who purchase a property will be exempt from paying Council Tax for up to three months to allow them to make their home habitable.
A further discretionary period of up to nine months will be considered to bring the property back into use if the owner has agreed a plan with the council to take positive steps to occupy their property and has also committed to eight-weekly inspections to review progress.
Owners of existing empty properties that require work to be completed to bring the property up to a suitable standard for sale, rent or to live in will also be exempt from paying the additional council tax for up to three months if they agree to inspections to check work is progressing. The owners will also have to provide evidence to show that any delays in making their home habitable has been outwith their control.
Councillor Kath Ryall, convener of corporate services, said: “The aim of the policy on Council Tax was to encourage owners to bring their properties back into use, and increase the supply of housing to rent and to buy in the area.
“We fully recognise there are circumstances which can hinder owners from doing this and that is why we were happy to approve the review. We want to make sure that anyone who is genuinely trying to refurbish a property and is held up by circumstances outwith their control such as a delay in workmen attending their home, unforeseen repairs, or even a setback due to Council procedures is not out of pocket. The new exemptions we have introduced will ensure this.”