Double council tax on second homes starts this week

New powers enabling Scottish councils to charge up to double the full rate of council tax on second homes come into force this week, the Scottish Government announced.

Councils will be able to increase the tax from April 1, 2024, and 29 of Scotland’s 32 local authorities have confirmed that second homeowners will have to pay the higher charge in their areas.

The changes aim to help increase housing availability by encouraging more homes to be used for living in.

They have come into force following joint work with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) and a public consultation held in 2023.

The three councils which have chosen not to double council tax on second homes are Falkirk, Glasgow City and North Ayrshire.

A second home is classed as any home that is not used as someone’s primary residence but that is occupied for at least 25 days in a year.

Latest figures, published in December 2023, show that there are over 24,000 second homes in Scotland.

Second homes were previously subject to a default 50% discount on council tax. However, local councils could vary council tax charges and the majority charged second homeowners the full council tax, the maximum previously allowed.

Local Government Empowerment Minister Joe FitzPatrick said: “We know there are housing pressures in parts of Scotland because of the prevalence of second homes.

“These new powers give flexibility to local councils, allowing them to charge the higher council tax rate on second homes if they wish and making sure they can prioritise homes for living in.

“The majority of people who responded to the public consultation last year supported these changes, which bring second homes into line with council tax policy on long-term empty homes.

“The changes demonstrate the value of the Verity House Agreement between the Scottish Government and COSLA in putting policies in place that can better meet the needs of local communities across Scotland.

“They also deliver important parts of the Scottish Government’s ‘Housing to 2040’ strategy and Bute House Agreement with the Scottish Green Party.”

COSLA’s Resources spokesperson Katie Hagmann said:  “I am pleased that this important legislation is coming into force this week. COSLA welcomes the ability for councils to take the decision to increase the premium on second homes in their areas where appropriate.

“It supports the long-standing COSLA position that councillors who are closest to their communities should be empowered to take the decisions about what best works in their local communities, demonstrating the value of the Verity House Agreement.”