Welsh Government crack down on second homes owners claiming covid-19 grants with new rules
The Welsh Government have introduced stricter rules on second home owners in Wales who want to claim business grants set up to help companies hit by the coronavirus lockdown.
Opposition parties had called on the Welsh Government to change their guidelines so that owners of second homes do not have access to business support grants of up to £25,000.
There was concern that second home owners who had deliberately converted to business rates to avoid paying higher council taxes were applying for the financial support announced by the government following the development of Covid-19.
The new Welsh Government rules mean that second home owners will need to meet a number of new criteria before being eligible for a grant.
As of 20 April 2020, in relation to self-catering accommodation, properties will not be eligible for grant unless the following criteria are met:
- The self-catering accommodation can produce two years of trading accounts directly preceding the current financial year of the business
- The self-catering accommodation must actually have been let for a period of 140 days or more in the financial year 2019-20
- The self-catering accommodation business must be the primary source of income for the owner (minimum threshold is 50%).
“Local authorities have full discretion to request and examine trading business accounts, booking lists and self-assessment tax returns submitted to HMRC for the financial year ending 31 March 2019 if additional evidence is required to demonstrate that this criteria is met,” the Welsh Government said.
“In cases where local authorities have decided to request additional evidence and the evidence shows that the scheme criteria are not met, local authorities are required to withhold payment of grant.”
The move comes after Gwynedd Council’s Leader, Plaid Cymru’s Cllr Dyfrig Siencyn, said he had contacted the Minister, Julie James, to highlight the fact that second home owners could claim business grants.
“It is unethical that wealthy individuals who own second homes have access to this financial aid package from the Government,” Dyfrig Siencyn said last week.
“It goes against the whole ethos of the support aid, a package to ensure a viable economy in an uneconomic period due to this disease outbreak that is spreading through the country.
“This grant should assist small rural businesses in Gwynedd that have been directly affected by Government laws that prevent companies and businesses from trading. That is the reason I have asked Gwynedd Council’s legal department to look at a specific clause within the business guidelines, so that it differentiates between a legitimate rural business and second home owners.”