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Make them pay rates 10.09.08

by Liam Porter, Inishowen Independent

A BUNCRANA-based businessman has called on the Minister for the Environment, John Gormley to introduce new measures to ensure that owners of vacant properties are made to pay rates.
Francis Callaghan, owner of the Digitalfone O2 stores maintained that many of the owners of vacant properties are using them solely as an investment and have no intention of either renting or selling them.
“If they place a ‘to let’ sign up on these properties they can evade paying rates but while these properties lie vacant other businesses are being left to foot the rising rates bills,” he claimed.
The Digitalfone O2 owner outlined in a letter to Minister Gormley how the UK system discourages leaving commercial buildings empty by making owners of vacant properties accountable for the rates.
“When a property becomes vacant the rates liability automatically reverts to the landlord until the property is either sold or redeveloped. This system means the option to use the vacant property as an investment vehicle is removed.”
Mr. Callaghan who owns property in the UK, says he knows from personal experience that it does not make sense to hold on to a commercial property over there as an investment.
“Within weeks of my property becoming vacant the council contacted me to inform me that because the property was now
Francis Callaghan, owner of the Digitalfone O2
vacant 50% of the rates were due because the property was vacant. They went on to inform me that this rate would go to 100% after 12 months and it would keep increasing in the following years if the property still remained vacant.”
Introducing a similar system here would, according to Mr. Callaghan, be a win-win situation for everybody.
“Not only would it mean that the local authorities would gain extra rates, it would also mean local builders would find employment in re developments and it would also boost tourism by removing the blight of vacant shops and commercial properties from every town in Ireland.”
The local store-owner says he has spoken to local councillors who agree that the introduction of such a system would be a good idea, but who told him they would have no authority to introduce it.
“I decided with that in mind to write directly to the Minister and outline how the system works in the UK. I think now that there is such a focus on where funding can be sourced that this is something the Irish government should implement as soon as possible,” he concluded.
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