Wednesday, November 21, 2018
In an effort to tackle the ongoing housing shortage, the government introduced legislation in 2015 namely, The Urban Regeneration and Housing Act 2015 (the “Act”) to incentivise landowners to develop their idle lands. The mechanism that was put in place to combat this problem was that every local authority since 1 January 2017 was obliged to establish a vacant site register (the “Vacant Site Register”) for its designated area. The significance of your property being deemed a vacant site (“Vacant Site”) is explored in this article and the avenues of redress that are available to you in the event that your land is listed on a Vacant Site Register are outlined below.
1. What falls within the remit of “Vacant Site”
The Act applies to two types of land, residential land and regeneration land. For the purposes of the Act, residential land is defined as land zoned for use solely or primarily for residential purposes and regeneration land is considered to be land with an objective of development and in need of regeneration.
To be deemed a Vacant Site for residential land, the test is as follows:
In the context of regeneration land, the test is as follows:
The definition of “site” as referred to above means any area of land exceeding 0.05 hectares identified by a planning authority in its functional area but does not include any structure that is a person’s home.
2. How will I know if my land has been deemed a Vacant Site?
The local authority will furnish you with written notice setting out its reasons for why it proposes to enter the site on the Vacant Site Register. It is important to note that you will have 28 days from the date of this notice to make submissions. The planning authority will be obliged to consider your submissions and if it is of the view that the site was a Vacant Site for the preceding 12 months it shall then enter the site on the Vacant Site Register. The planning authority shall give the owner of the Vacant Site written notice when it has entered the site on the Vacant Site Register.
3. What are the consequences of my land being entered on the Vacant Site Register?
If your land has been entered on the Vacant Site Register you will be subject to a 3% charge of the market value of each site for 2018. The levy will be payable in arrears commencing from 2019. After the first year (i.e. 2018 which is payable in 2019), the levy will increase to 7% for every subsequent year. There had been an opportunity for Vacant Site landowners whose lands were the subject of a loan to avail of a reduction in the amount of the Vacant Site levy that was to be payable in respect of their Vacant Site. However, pursuant to the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2018 (as enacted on 19 July 2018) this reduction has been removed.
4. What avenues of recourse do I have if my land has been listed on the Vacant Site Register?
If your land is entered on the Vacant Site Register you can appeal against this decision to An Bord Pleanala within 28 days from the date of the notice. At this appeal you will be obliged to show that the site, or the majority of the site, was not vacant or idle for the 12 months prior to the site being entered on the Vacant Site Register. It is important to note that in the event that you do lodge an appeal, during this time the site will remain on the Vacant Site Register.
5. What penalties will I face if I do not pay the Vacant Site Levy and how does my property being listed as a Vacant Site affect me dealing with the asset?
If the levy is not paid within 2 months after the day on which it becomes payable, it shall be recoverable as a simple contract debt in court. In the event that the levy is due and owing for over a year, this will result in a charge on the property until payment is made. If you choose to sell the property at a later date, you will need to produce a certificate of discharge in respect of payment for every year that the site has registered as a Vacant Site.