The Scottish Government has followed its English counterpart and revealed plans to manage the number of second homes and holiday rentals more aggressively within the country’s key tourism hotspots.
Its proposals include enabling local authorities to either double or more than double council tax in these areas for second homes in order to encourage ‘more residential accommodation to be used for living in and for these to be occupied for more of the time’, the document says.
It is also seeking landlords and owners’ views on increasing the ‘non-domestic’ rates charged on self-catering accommodation.
“Local areas need to decide how to achieve the right balance in the use of housing to meet local needs and to support thriving communities,” the official announcement adds.
“That is why we are also asking for views on whether the current non-domestic rates thresholds for self-catering accommodation should change, and/or if councils should have discretion to set them.”
The three MSPs backing the consultation, which include housing minister Paul McLennan (pictured), say that over the past decade the growth of online platforms like Airbnb and Booking.com has fueled the trend for residential homes, particularly in tourist hotspots, to be changed from primary homes to be used for short-term lets or second homes.
“This can cause problems for neighbours and make it harder for local people, particularly young people or those with fewer resources, to find homes to live in,” says McLennan.
“We also remain concerned about the number of empty homes in Scotland, which could potentially be brought back into use for people to live in.”
Definitions are important in the debate, and the MSPs say a ‘second home’ is an additional residence not used as a main home but lived in for at least 25 days a year.
An ‘unoccupied home’ is a property not used as a main residence or a second home.
Such properties will have the increased council tax applied if they are offered to rent commercially for more than 140 days a year, and rented for more than 70 days a year.
The main thrust of the new proposed tax policies is that, if a property is not used for whatever reason (i.e. as a second home or simply not used) then the owners will be required to contribute more to the local economy, not less.
Read the consultation document, which includes detail on how to respond.