Case Study – Advice Service & Highland Council – Discretion on the council tax levy
Our Advice Service was contacted by an owner who was in the middle of renovating a property which her partner had inherited from his late aunt. The property was a former croft in the Highlands and the couple planned to relocate and make it their permanent home once work was complete. Unfortunately, they uncovered unexpected issues when they first started renovations which extended their budget. They then had to continue on a piecemeal basis, so the project was taking much longer than expected and they were struggling financially. The Council Tax levy had also been applied.
They originally had assistance from their MSP in requesting discretion on the levy. Although some progress had been made, there were further delays due to covid, difficulties with contractors and other personal circumstances. With the house remaining empty the levy was re-applied for 2021/22. The owners were unsure if they would be granted further discretion but the advice service assisted with a template letter referencing Scottish Government guidance, highlighting progress made and further difficulties out with their control. In February 2022 their review was successful, and they received a refund of over £2000 of Council Tax.
This came at a crucial time when they were trying to get the property to a condition where they could move in. Using discretion in cases like this helps ensure the levy doesn’t become a barrier to bringing homes back into use.
We then asked –
“Has your council used Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) in the last year to bring empty homes back into use?”