Commercial property owners to pay service charges on empty buildings in Scotland

The Scottish Government has announced that empty commercial property owners will have to pay water service charges from the 1 April 2017. Previously, void building owners received a 100 per cent relief from payment, but this will now only apply for the first three months, at which point the owner will only receive a 10 per cent relief.

“The introduction of these charges is on the basis that vacant properties benefit from water and sewerage services and should therefore pay for them,” said Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham. “It is expected to generate some £15m a year additional wholesale revenue for Scottish Water, allowing business charges to be frozen.”

This decision may discourage building owners from leaving any of their portfolio long term void. It seems to fit with efforts in Scotland to reduce vacant property, in line with work by organisations like the Scottish Empty Housing Partnership, who are targeting the residential vacant property sector.

With the increased efforts in Scotland to reduce void premises, we’re encouraging property owners and managers to consider the vacant property management solutions they have currently implemented, and to evaluate whether it is suitable and efficient to protect their long term investment. A professional service can offer a bespoke solution, using a range of methods such as steel or polymer doors and screens, CCTV, alarms, and access management systems, to ensure vacant properties are secured from vandalism, arson and squatting. This will make the renovation and return to use process much easier and cheaper for the building owner or manager.

However, the decision to reduce the water services relief has received some criticism and has even been seen as an attack on businesses. Murdo Fraser, Scottish Conservative finance spokesman, said: “We should be supporting firms at this tricky time, not penalising them further.” He also added that: “The Scottish government may say it is ‘generating’ the extra money, but in truth it’s simply another tax raid.”

Regardless of the political agenda behind the tax, managers and owners should ensure that they are protecting their investment by protecting the longevity of their building assets.

Man holding steel screen