Call for council tax relief on empty landlord properties

by Property 118

11:38 AM, 24th April 2020
About 4 months ago

Call for council tax relief on empty landlord properties

Make Text Bigger
Call for council tax relief on empty landlord properties

The NRLA are calling on Ministers to instruct local authorities that they should not charge council tax on rented homes left empty because of the coronavirus.

A significant number of rented homes have been left empty because tenants have been unable to take up tenancies, or have chosen to move out to be closer to family during the lockdown. During this period landlords will become liable for the council tax on the property and have no realistic prospect of finding new tenants.

The National Residential Landlords Association is asking the Government to tell councils that they should exempt houses have been left empty as a result of the virus from council tax demands.

A recent survey by the NRLA found that 41% of landlords are concerned about having to cover the unexpected costs of utility bills and council tax.

Ben Beadle, Chief Executive of the NRLA, said: “It is manifestly unfair for landlords to be asked to pay council tax on properties which are empty, and likely to remain so, because of the impact of the pandemic. Whilst we remain supportive of the measures taken so far by the Government, landlords are being asked to absorb more costs at a time when they are least able.

“Unlike most small businesses and the self-employed, there has been no direct support package announced for landlords. Removing this unnecessary burden would at least help those landlords who are struggling to cope with drastically reduced income.”



Comments

Gary Nock

12:32 PM, 24th April 2020
About 4 months ago

This is a long one folks so bear with me. I am not a solicitor although I have legal experience in both civil and criminal law. Please use the below as you see fit.

I have applied for exemptions on 2 properties using this and am awaiting a reply.

"Application for a Council Tax Exemption under Paragraph 3 (Class “G”) of The Council Tax
(Exempt Dwellings) Order 1992.

1. Legislation Applicable to Council Tax Demands
Council Tax is payable on dwellings in accordance with Sections 17-22 of The Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement) Regulations 1992 Statutory Instrument 613 of 1992 which came into force on the 1st April 1992 alongside the provisions of the Local Government Finance
Act 1992 giving local authorities powers to levy council tax. Section 4 of that Act states:
“Dwellings chargeable to council tax. Council tax shall be payable in respect of any dwelling which is not an exempt dwelling. In this Chapter—“chargeable dwelling” means any dwelling in respect
of which council tax is payable; “exempt dwelling” means any dwelling of a class prescribed by an order made by the Secretary of State”
(3)For the purposes of subsection (2) above, a class of dwellings may be prescribed by reference to such factors as the Secretary of State sees fit.
(4)Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (3) above, a class of dwellings may be prescribed by reference to one or more of the following factors—
(a)the physical characteristics of dwellings;
(b)the fact that dwellings are unoccupied or are occupied for prescribed purposes or are occupied or owned by persons of prescribed descriptions.

2. Legislation Applicable to Council Tax Exemptions
The Council Tax (Exempt Dwellings) Order 1992 - Statutory Instrument 558/1992 came into force from 31st March 1992. Paragraph 3 states:
“A dwelling is an exempt dwelling for the purposes of section 4 of the Act ( The Local Government Act 1992) on a particular day if on that day it falls within one of the following classes–
“Class G: an unoccupied dwelling the occupation of which is prohibited by law, or which is kept unoccupied by reason of action taken under powers conferred by or under any Act of Parliament,
with a view to prohibiting its occupation or to acquiring it”
The Council Tax (Exempt Dwellings) (England) (Amendment) Order 2012 amended the 1992
Order as follows:
“Amendment of the Council Tax (Exempt Dwellings) Order 1992 2.—(1) The Council Tax (Exempt
Dwellings) Order 1992(2) is amended in accordance with paragraphs (2) and (3). (2) In article 2, omit paragraph (2). (3) In article 3, omit classes A and C.”
Article 2 paragraph 2 of the 1992 Order states:
(2) For the purpose of determining the last occupation day, any period of less than 6 weeks within
which the dwelling concerned was occupied shall be disregarded”
Article 3, classes “A” and “C” are:
Class A:
(1) a dwelling which is and has been both unoccupied, other than for any period of less than 6 weeks, and substantially unfurnished fora period of less than 6 months since–
(a) the effective date of any alteration of the valuation list arising from the carrying out of
relevant works; or(b) if there has been no such alteration of the list because relevant works were carried out before 1st April 1993, the date of completion of such works;
(2) in paragraph (1) “relevant works” means the erection or structural alteration of or repair
works to the dwelling”
Class “C”
a dwelling which is unoccupied and has been so for a period of less than 6 months since the last occupation day and which is substantially unfurnished and has been so throughout that period;
Note: These amendments have not affected Class “G” Exemptions other than to make the total period of exemption countable from the first day and not subject to the six week rule.

3. The Coronavirus Act 2020 and Associated Legislation
The Coronavirus Act 2020 received Royal Assent and became an Act of Parliament on the 25th March 2020 following a televised newscast by the Prime Minister advising the country of the 3-week lockdown on the 23rd March 2020. This made general and specific law in relation to the control of coronavirus. Alongside this, The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions (England)Regulations 2020 as Statutory Instrument 350 of 2020 came into force at 1pm on the 26th March 2020. This states:
Section 6.—(1) of The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020
states : During the emergency period, no person may leave the place where they are living
without reasonable excuse
( paraphrased):
(2) For the purposes of paragraph (1), a reasonable excuse includes the need—
(f) to travel for the purposes of work or to provide voluntary or charitable services, where it
is not reasonably possible for that person to work, or to provide those services, from the
place where they are living;
(l) to move house where reasonably necessary”
Under the Act and associated guidance Estate and Letting Agents were classed as non-essential businesses and were instructed to close by MHCLG on the 24th March 2020.

4. MHCLG “Coronavirus (COVID-19) Guidance for Landlords and Tenants March 2020”
The Guidance issued by MHCLG in the document “Coronavirus (COVID-19) Guidance for
Landlords and Tenants” states on page 20:
“3.11 What about access to a property to conduct viewings or where a move is scheduled?
• Government has advised against home moves wherever possible. See separate advice here https://www.gov.uk/guidance/government-advice-on-home-moving-during-the-coronavirus-
covid-19-outbreak
• We recommend that landlords and tenants engage constructively about access to a property, and that it is only proposed for serious and urgent issues. Follow the Government’s latest guidance on distancing measures necessary to help stop the spread of the virus here:
https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus
• This means that no one should visit the property to conduct viewings, or anything else which
is not urgent and health and safety-related.
• Home buyers and renters should, as far as possible, delay moving to a new home while
emergency measures are in place to fight coronavirus”

5. Summary
The cumulative impact of both the Coronavirus Act, associated Statutory Instrument, and
MHCLG Guidance is that a current unoccupied dwelling either for let or for sale, which is not a “serious and urgent issue” ( i.e. the prospective tenant is not homeless) has effectively had its occupation prohibited by law, having been kept “unoccupied by reason of action taken under powers conferred by or under any Act of Parliament, with a view to prohibiting its occupation or
to acquiring it”
Landlords are unable to freely access estate or letting agents as they are closed, and estate and letting agents are not free to go about their business unfettered by the current regulations. Thus,
it is grossly inequitable that a landlord should be expected to pay council tax on an unoccupied and unfurnished dwelling, that he can neither let nor sell, under current coronavirus restrictions.

The council is in somewhat of a difficult position. The government via the Coronavirus Act and associated guidance is effectively prohibiting occupation of unfurnished and unoccupied property except in "serious and urgent cases". If the council does not grant an exemption, which in itself can be challenged via the Valuation Tribunal, then they are by default negating the public health aspect of the Coronavirus Act and it's guidance, relating to property and encouraging landlords and agents to let and sell their properties against the Act and guidance.

 A public body cannot on one hand enforce and expect landlords and agents to comply with the law and then effectively punish landlords and agents for compliance by charging full council tax while the period of prohibition is in force.
A refusal by the council to accept that such properties are exempt in effect makes the statement that they are not "an unoccupied dwelling the occupation of which is prohibited by law, or which is kept unoccupied by reason of action taken under powers conferred by or under any Act of Parliament, with a view to prohibiting its occupation or to acquiring it”
Thus if an exemption is refused, unoccupied and unfurnished properties appear to be able to be sold or let against the word and spirit of the Coronavirus Act which does not appear moral or advisable at this time. I would please ask that such an exemption is considered for the public good.

On this basis I therefore request exemption from council tax on the grounds above. I am aware
that the Local Authority has discretion to allow this as some already have. I am also aware of my right to appeal a decision by the Local Authority to the Valuation Tribunal.

Windsor Woman

17:32 PM, 24th April 2020
About 4 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Gary Nock at 24/04/2020 - 12:32
Gary, thanks, that's really helpful info.

I have a property now attracting double C Tax because it has been vacant and unfurnished for some months and I was about to sell it, but now that can't happen for a while. I have asked the Council to waive the double tax and had agreed to pay the standard C Tax but have not yet received any reply. From reading your post it looks as though I could apply for relief from all C Tax including the standard levy . Have I got that right? Thanks

Gary Nock

17:38 PM, 24th April 2020
About 4 months ago

Well I think so. But Dudley MBC have told me that unoccupied properties are not " prohibited by law" from occupation under the Coronavirus Act. This is what I was told:

"After looking through the LGFA 1992 and seeking specialist advice, a Class G exemption would only apply if the premises in question were specifically stopped from becoming occupied i.e. The question being, if this were a person’s main residence, could they use it? The fact that landlords can't let premises it is a problem that I imagine is nationwide. Whilst you refer to Section 6.—(1) of The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020, I am unable to find anything specific in the legislation that stops people moving into a property, as you highlighted in your attachment “to move house where reasonable necessary”, this does not prevent occupation in its entirety. On this basis a Class G exemption will not be awarded"

My reply:

"As the council has now effectively stated that my daughter and I are not prohibited from legally occupying the property by placing a tenant in it as it does according to Dudley MBC not fall within Class "G") then I am quite within my rights to commence the letting process as long as social distancing and other remote measures are observed. As I stated in my previous email the government and local authorities cannot have it both ways. The government cannot one one hand prohibit occupation of a property, and the local authority then charge full council tax on a property that cannot be let. This appears to be an absurd paradox.

Thank you for clarifying this point for me and effectively allowing lettings to continue.This is a point of national issue and I will share it with the relevant authorities for their information and clarification.

I do also reserve the right to refer your decision to the Valuation Tribunal"

I know I am being somewhat mischievious but they cannot have it both ways. So I am going to Valuation Tribunal and am putting my property up for let.

Windsor Woman

18:28 PM, 24th April 2020
About 4 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Gary Nock at 24/04/2020 - 17:38
Good one! Thanks 🙂

Paul Shears

19:05 PM, 24th April 2020
About 4 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Gary Nock at 24/04/2020 - 17:38
Gary
You are an absolute star!
Paul

Adrian Jones

9:29 AM, 25th April 2020
About 4 months ago

Before I contact them, has anyone had any dealings with Pembrokeshire Council about this? By the way what about water bills and gas/electricity standing charges?

Paul landlord

13:36 PM, 25th April 2020
About 4 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Adrian Jones at 25/04/2020 - 09:29As regards to water, the two water companies I have dealings with, Yorkshire Water and Severn Trent never make charges on unoccupied properties.
Obviously I have void periods etc and I always inform them on outgoing tenants and new occupations. Yorkshire water dont even want to name me on an account as there is no liability- their words many years ago and still holds true now.
In terms of costs then water rates is a significant sum per month especially if I am unfortunate enough to have a few tenants vacate in same time period.
As for the gas and electricity then that depends on supplier. I always put the account in my name and stand the cost of the standing charge (if there is one). I find the standing charges are minimal by comparison- £1.50ish per week. I have had a lot of my tenants move from the 'big six' over the years to companies like Utilita. They don't have standing charges in the first place.

The council tax- like everyone else I'm banging my head against a brick wall they wont budge. Finished renovating two properties and was just about to market them literally days just prior to lockdown and now im stuck with the two massive bills.

SimonF

2:33 AM, 26th April 2020
About 4 months ago

Thank you for post and comments. I am currently arguing with a few London councils re ctax on vacant properties we can't let due to covid. None have as of yet agreed to waive. I will try this letter but may also try contacting voa asking them to delete from rating list till this is over. We also have a few large commercial units vacant but again council is not agreeing to waive even though they are waiving rates on occupied commercial units. Any advice on non domestic vacant rates due to covid will be appreciated

Gracie

11:12 AM, 27th April 2020
About 4 months ago

Has anyone happened to have dealt with Merton Council in this regard?

Steve Guest

11:16 AM, 27th April 2020
About 4 months ago

I have already contacted Rotherham Borough Council, I have two properties for sale, one fallen through, two I want to put up for sale and two empty, and can't advertise for tenants. I have asked for some help with the not insubstantial council tax liability and guess what ,they said no

1 2 9

Leave Comments

Please Log-In OR Become a member to reply to comments or subscribe to new comment notifications.

Forgotten your password?

OR

BECOME A MEMBER

Housing Market recovery not expected to continue beyond Stamp Duty holiday

The Landlords Union

Become a Member, it's FREE

Our mission is to facilitate the sharing of best practice amongst UK landlords, tenants and letting agents

Learn More