What is Council Tax?
The Council Tax is a local tax set by the Council to help to pay for the services it provides. There is only one bill for each house and it has a personal component and a property component. It is based on the value of your property relative to others in your local area.
Who has to pay the Council Tax?
Where a house is someone's sole or main residence, the owner-occupier or tenant will usually be liable for the Council Tax bill.For other houses, including empty property, holiday homes, etc., the tenant or owner will normally be liable.
The owner is also responsible in a limited number of cases in which it would be difficult to make the people living in the property liable.
Council Tax is set for 8 different bands, A - H, dependent upon the value of your property, which is set by the Assessor.
The Band D charge in the Western Isles in 2014-15 is £1,024. Water and Wastewater charges are collected by the Comhairle on behalf of Scottish Water.
The Council Tax for 2014-15 is calculated initially on the basis of a Band D property, and fractions are used to calculate the tax for all other bands.
To check the banding of a property anywhere in Scotland go to the Assessors’ Portal.
Changes to Legislation – Empty Homes
From 1 April 2013, the amount of Council Tax payable on a long term empty property in the Western Isles has changed. A levy equal to 100% Council Tax will be added to the bill where a property meets the criteria of being unoccupied for over 1 year.
Why has this changed?
The Scottish Government has recently brought in new laws which allow the Comhairle to charge a levy of up to 100% Council Tax on long term empty properties from 1 April 2013. The Scottish Government is keen to encourage empty home owners to bring their properties back into use to increase the supply of housing in Scotland and to help tackle the shortage of affordable housing. The relevant legislation, SSI 2013 No 45, The Council Tax (Variation for Unoccupied Dwellings) (Scotland) regulations 2013 which allows for this change can be found at www.legislation.gov.uk
Are there any unoccupied properties which are not going to have the levy applied?
Second homes which are furnished and can be evidenced to be occupied for at least 25 days a year are not included. Other empty properties where an exemption from Council Tax applies such as properties where the last person who lived there is now in residential care are not affected by this change. Long term empty properties that are being actively marketed for sale or let will not have the levy applied until two years after the date they were last occupied.
Is the Comhairle offering any help to bring empty properties back into use?
The Comhairle has developed an “Outer Hebrides Empty Homes Scheme”, funded by the Scottish Government, which aims to bring a number of empty properties back into use as rented accommodation in rural areas. This is a limited Scheme which may provide interest free loans of up to £20,000 for works required which will enable an empty house to be reoccupied. To receive information on this Loan Scheme, or for advice on how to make best use of a long term empty property, please contact Housing Services on 01851 822691.