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From 1 January 2014, homes in Edinburgh that lie empty for a year or more are set to face a double council tax charge.

In April last year, the Scottish Government granted local authorities the power to vary council tax on second homes and properties that lay empty for long periods. The rationale behind the Council Tax (Variation for Unoccupied Dwellings) Scotland Act was to help tackle Scotland's housing shortage and encourage better use of private housing.

Now the City of Edinburgh Council plans to use that power to clamp down on the number of empty houses in the capital. Other local authorities, including Glasgow, Moray and Argyll and Bute councils are set to follow suit.

Under the new rules in Edinburgh, an unoccupied, unfurnished home can receive an exemption from council tax for up to six months, followed by a 10% discount for a further six months. However, if the property lays empty for more than a year, it will be charged council tax at 200%. An unfurnished home is one that contains no more than the basics of curtains, carpets built-in furniture and white goods.

A furnished home is deemed to be one containing these basics, plus any item of moveable furniture. Unoccupied, furnished homes may be given a 10% discount for 12 months. However, if they remain empty for any longer, they too will be charged double the regular rate of council tax.

Second homes, for which evidence can show occupation for least 25 days per year, will be given an ongoing 10% discount.

Purpose-built holiday homes or second homes of people living in job-related accommodation will be given an ongoing 50% council tax discount. Homes that have been purchased requiring major repairs will be given a 50% discount for six months from the date of purchase.

Unoccupied homes that are on sale will be given a 50% discount for two years. However, in a blow to owners prepared to hang on for the right price, homes on the market that remain unoccupied for longer than 24 months will also be charged the double rate.

To find out if your property could be affected by the new rules in Edinburgh, click here.

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