Tuesday, 26 February 2019
Department of Housing, Planning, and Local Government
Local Authority Functions
634. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government the flexibility local authorities have in rating vacant premises; and if the rates are set by his Department or each local authority. [9048/19]
The levying and collection of rates are, in the first instance, matters for each individual local authority. Under the Valuation Acts, 2001-2015, local authorities are obliged to levy rates on any property, used for commercial purposes, in accordance with the valuation lists prepared by the independent Commissioner of Valuation.
There is legislative provision for the refund of rates paid on vacant commercial properties in certain circumstances. While the Local Government Act 1946 provides that rates generally apply to vacant properties there is provision for a refund if the property is vacant for specified purposes. The specified purposes include additions, alterations or repairs to the property or where the premises are vacant pending redevelopment. The operation of the refund provisions is a matter for individual local authorities.
Under the 1946 Act, the owner was entitled to a 100% refund in most local authority areas. However, under separate legislation governing refunds in the cities of Dublin, Limerick and Cork, only 50% of the rates paid were refundable. With effect from 1 June 2014, the Local Government Reform Act 2014 gave discretion to the elected members of individual local authorities to vary the level of rates refunds that apply in individual local electoral areas within the authority’s administrative area.
The Local Government (Financial and Audit Procedures) Regulations 2014 provide that the decision to alter the rate of refund should be taken at the annual budget meeting and that the rate of refund decided, in respect of the relevant local electoral area, shall apply to eligible persons for the year to which the budget relates. The absence of a decision to vary the refund means that the existing legislative provisions regarding the rate of refunds, as set out above, apply. Further, guidance in this area has been provided to local authorities.
The Local Government (Rates) Bill 2018 is currently before the Oireachtas and completed Second Stage recently. Section 8 of the Bill provides that a local authority may provide a temporary abatement for vacant properties, subject to any maximum relief which may be specified by the Minister. The Bill is a key priority of my Department and, when enacted, will facilitate more effective and streamlined rates collection procedures.