Irish government ‘should look at introducing a vacant homes tax’

Ireland’s Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said the Government needs to look at introducing a new vacant homes tax, the Irish Independent reported last week.

In an email to his parliamentary party, Fine Gael, Mr Varadkar said a levy on homes that lie empty should be looked at again, along with other measures to tackle the country’s housing crisis.

A 2018 report for the Department of Finance did not recommend introducing the tax, but the idea has re-emerged in recent months following reports of large numbers of empty units in apartment blocks in Dublin and elsewhere. The Labour party has suggested a tax on homes that lie vacant for more than six months.

Clamp down on bulk buying

Varadkar has also said that approved housing bodies and local authorities’ role in bulk-buying housing estates needs to be re-examined. The Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien has announced plans to exempt these bodies from new rules, to clamp down on the bulk-buying of new housing estates by ‘cuckoo’ funds and has issued a circular to this effect.

In an email to his party, Varadkar added that they should look too at long-term lease arrangements where the asset did not revert to the state or occupant at the end of the lease. The Irish Government’s policy actions announced last Tuesday were not the last policy actions that would be taken to improve the situation for first-time buyers and existing homeowners and families who want to upsize or downsize.

The Dáil has passed a proposal to impose a stamp duty of 10 percent for the bulk-buying of more than 10 houses or duplexes, but not apartments, which came into effect on 21 May. The Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said that apartments are not included as it would mean that it would put off developers and none may be built at all.

No known next of kin

Maeve Mullin, Finders International Ireland’s Office Manager, said: “There are many reasons why properties lie empty or become derelict—one of these is where no-one knows who the property belongs to. This situation might arise where someone has died, and they do not seem to have any next of kin.

“We offer a research service to county councils where we locate the relatives of that person who has died. They might not be close relatives and may live elsewhere or even overseas, but we can do this quickly. Once the legal owners are identified and found, we can provide advice about what they can do to prepare the property for sale or to rent out, if that is what they want to do, freeing up the home for return to the property market.”

You can find out more about the empty property service Finders International offers here.