Appealing valuation from single to five dwellings?

by Readers Question

15:05 PM, 15th March 2019
About 5 months ago

Appealing valuation from single to five dwellings?

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Appealing valuation from single to five dwellings?

We have a small HMO of 5 rooms in Stoke-On-Trent. Recently the Valuation Office has brought our property in as 5 separate hereditaments. The property has been regarded as a single dwelling until 5 months ago, with a tax for the entire property, now 5 times higher.

We have got the HMO license, but 3 out of 5 rooms are on the verge of what can be approved (10m2). 2 rooms are slightly larger about 13m2 and 18m2. All rooms have a minimal en-suite and a small fridge, but no possibility to cook. We have had a hard time renting out due to reduced demand and small rooms and a small shared kitchen. We have had an occupancy of about 3.5 people over time in 5 rooms. The tax must be paid regardless of whether we have tenants, they say. The house has a value of approximately £85,000.

The valuation office made the change without contacting or notifying us, so we had no opportunity to question or give our opinion. We have tried to make contact with them to discuss whether it is reasonable. The Council does not want to discuss or show us the basis for the assessment. They do not allow us to talk to the person responsible. We have submitted, by email, an appeal. They refuse to answer if it is accepted as formally correct, although I have emailed and asked 3 times.

Does anyone have any similar experience or advice on what we can do? Any idea if we have a chance to have our appeal approved?



Harlequin Garden

13:02 PM, 20th March 2019
About 5 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Frederick Morrow-Ahmed at 20/03/2019 - 12:07
I am accepting that 10 people do not live as cheaply as one family (in the case of council tax and this is why the rating system was abolished because of the well spoken of family of 6 living next door to a little old lady scenario) but if this is the way it is going with more and more HMO's in place and licensed (so the various councils are aware of them) then a lower cost system needs to be thought of so that each 'adult' pays his or her way, it isn't fair that 10 adults in one house pay the same as a couple in one next door, but that doesn't mean to say that they pay 5 x as much either! these little rooms have no actual £ value so how on earth they are 'valued' by the VO for council tax which is based on a '£ value' for the unit is quite beyond me, they are valued at the first tier until they get bit enough to swing a cat it seems then you are bumped into the 2nd tier - and I say again, this would not have happened with the community charge. The system is broken.

Frederick Morrow-Ahmed

16:57 PM, 20th March 2019
About 5 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Harlequin Garden at 20/03/2019 - 13:02
I totally agree with with your philosophy but what I can't understand is where do they get the power to make it retrospective.

They informed you of the new banding in November, yet backdated payment to start from April! And then even claimed they could backdate it for a whole SEVEN YEARS!

That seems patently unfair and illogical. Where do they get that power from? Did you ask them?

Harlequin Garden

17:23 PM, 20th March 2019
About 5 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Frederick Morrow-Ahmed at 20/03/2019 - 16:57
Their explanations of why they can charge Council Tax for a 4x3m room at £1000 a year were so complicated, every time I did a 'ah but' they had something else to say - when I was being threatened, which is the only name for it, to what could be £84,000 back council tax (9 rooms x £1000 at least x 7) it was time to say 'leave it, I'll deal with it'. She said she had the power, she had the power to come in and 'value' them without any notice or permission, she had the power to value them without even seeing them (!) I know when to stop arguing. Trouble is with all these authorities it is up to the 'threatened' to prove it, expensive, lengthy, all consuming. I'm about to have the same happen very shortly in another building I have - I knew it would come and I've had a visit from Environment Health, I'm pretty certain I'm fine on that score, as it has never been an HMO being separate units, but I ran it is if it was an HMO - and I asked the council many times 'so what is it' - I've never hidden it, but suddenly a 'spot visit' and accusations of 'denying access' followed by one arranged to give tenants their 24 hours notice, she turned up with an EH enforcement officer, a planning enforcement officer, and building control officer, no one has got back to me after 3 weeks, but I know it's coming ... they were expecting something they didn't find by the way they spoke outside (CCTV!) - I do wish they'd go and chase what really are the rogue landlords and there are many as we know, but of course they never find them, they never respond so they spend their time chasing those of us above the parapet.

I will have to evict one tenant whose room is now 'too small' - was fine before but too small for an HMO but this is not an HMO - anyone any ideas on this? She is happy to stay, can't afford anywhere else like this and terrified as she has nowhere to go.

Is the aim of all this licensing and legislation to make more homeless? Seems like it to me.

Frederick Morrow-Ahmed

18:04 PM, 20th March 2019
About 5 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Harlequin Garden at 20/03/2019 - 17:23Corr blimey, you are really going through a nightmare!
I can understand if you are being threatened with £84k and she claims she has the power you get bullied into submission, discretion being the better part of valour.
Without knowing the details, I cannot give any advice on your comment that "it has never been an HMO being separate units, but I ran it is if it was an HMO".
As far as room sizes are concerned, if it is an HMO then you have to evict the tenant from the small room. I have heard of many similar cases of tenants terrified of having to leave their small rooms where they have happily lived for many years and due to their financial circumstances cannot find anything similar. The best course of action may be to get the tenant to write to thge national newspapers to complain. That might jolt them. Unfortunately though, you will have to give her a Section 21, get her to receipt it with signature and date and send a copy to the Council to convey to them that you are taking action. Otherwise you will be in trouble. You may like to see if you can help her find somewhere. Not sure which neck of the wood you are in but try Spareroom and Gumtree or the local newsagents window, and also offer to transport her belongings.

Yes, we are living in the Gulag.

Frederick Morrow-Ahmed

20:28 PM, 20th March 2019
About 5 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Heather at 18/03/2019 - 16:07
Hi Heather,

Very sorry to hear about your predicament. Find out what the inspector (Valuation Officer) says when he visits so you can decide whether to sell up or not.

I think it is diabolical that this is not pointed out when someone first decides to register or licence an HMO. Most people would have run a mile if they had known.

Harlequin Garden

20:36 PM, 20th March 2019
About 5 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Frederick Morrow-Ahmed at 20/03/2019 - 18:04
By not an HMO but run as an HMO I meant I complied with everything that my HMO had to comply with so when the inspection came she could press the alarms to her hearts content (and she did every single one) and they were linked, likewise fire doors etc - she was climbing over my tenants belongings to count the power points - and asking where they were so I just kept pointing to things plugged in - computers, hairdryers etc, the lead usually leads to a power point. It was 3 hours of hell. She even asked what the light meant on the emergency lighting and the building control guy said 'it shows it works'. She was on a mission. This council (Lambeth) has publicised that it has ploughed a chunk of money into the private housing sector to protect tenants, they are going the right way about having more homeless doing it this way.

Frederick Morrow-Ahmed

20:49 PM, 20th March 2019
About 5 months ago

Hi Ulf,

Very sorry to hear of your predicament. Did the VO say from what date this new banding would be applicable? Some people are having it backdated for reasons unknown.

If it is a small HMO of 5 rooms, you may be better off removing the ensuites and fridges and then asking the VO to re-band it as a single house

Frederick Morrow-Ahmed

21:13 PM, 20th March 2019
About 5 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Harlequin Garden at 20/03/2019 - 20:36
If it was not an HMO and not licensed, why was there an inspection?

Much more concerning is the CT banding. The 7 months April to November must have cost you a pretty packet.

I don't know if one could have appealed it and asked since it was known to be an HMO with some facilities in the rooms why did the VOA not act sooner. The fault was their and there should not have been any backpayment. But I guess the way she was bullying it was difficult to argue. This advisory website lgfa92 also say that the outcomes are not very good.

But natural justice would say that if the VOA took so long to inform then the fault is theirs.

If enough HMOs could chip in one could get a legal opinion. Maybe that's why they are doing it surreptitiously and in such an underhand way so people precisely don't do that. If anyone is a member of the NLA or RLA it would be worth getting them activated.

It's not their right to do it that is being questioned. That is pretty much specified on their website. It's the fact that they are acting so late and then claiming backpayment even though HMO Licensing teams would have had this information long ago. If landlords had known this none would have put any facilities in rooms.

Harlequin Garden

22:04 PM, 20th March 2019
About 5 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Frederick Morrow-Ahmed at 20/03/2019 - 21:13
I will never know the real reason why the inspection - we've had the place for 20 years and for 20 years we've had to call to have our bins emptied -we regularly took the rubbish to the dump when they didn't come for weeks - apparently it is because of the calls for the rubbish to be collected that a rubbish collector alerted the other departments regarding this. I don't believe this for one second, first they rarely came and secondly a refuse collector collects rubbish (well he's supposed to) the paths never cross to other departments we all know that council departments are just not joined up. I tackled the inspector as she left about this and it was painfully obvious that this wasn't true, she said 'it's a very big house and we wanted to see what was going on' next door has had a lot of attention, he is well known in various London Boroughs as one of the worst of the worst landlords so maybe she'd seen the property on one of her trips, - the rubbish is still not being taken either! I called once to say that 'the bins need taking' (I had to repeat the conversation in my head to work out what had happened) - so they took the bins ... away. Irony was that when the EH officer did her spot call my handyman was power hosing the pavement because next door's rubbish had been left for so long it had stained the pavement. This is how I look after all my properties and this is how I am treated - guy leaving the rubbish is left alone.

There is legislation written in many different ways that gets us on this council tax - I can't recall it all now but it is very clear that if it is able to be used as a 'dwelling' then they can rate/value it. This is what needs to be changed - and get a 'rate' for 'dwellings'; it isn't fair for 10 people to live in one house and pay one council tax but it also isn't fair for each one to pay the same as a self contained flat - which has a value, a room doesn't and the CT is based on monetary value of a property - this is the bit that's wrong. You can't sell the room, you can sell a leasehold flat that can be paying the same council tax, sorry I'm repeating myself but this is what is wrong. HMO's are now an accepted way of living so do the rest to bring it into line, not make a previous system fit (because it doesn't). I've said enough now!

Maybe I'll Airbnb the rooms - you don't have to meet any conditions for that.

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