Demand for 18 years of council tax – but tenant has already paid

Demand for 18 years of council tax – but tenant has already paid

9:15 AM, 16th August 2022, About 2 months ago 10

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Hello everyone, We have a rented property which we have rented to the same tenant since 2003, a verbal tenancy of 6 months minimum then periodic.

The council sent us a demand in December last year for 18 years worth of council tax including uplift for an empty property, a bill of £33,000, even though they knew it was occupied and the occupant paid the council tax until he moved out in November 2021.

The tenant contacted the council rates department to explain they had made a mistake because he had paid by DD for his entire tenancy.

The Rates department cancelled his account and put the account for this property into our company’s name, and told him that he no longer had an account so they could not discuss this with him.

They have moved his payments elsewhere and created a liability for our company for these rates, the tenant has not been refunded.

On August 30th we are due to appear in the magistrates court, where no doubt they will award a liability order to the council.

The tenant has supplied a statutory declaration to the effect that he is liable and occupied the property from 2003, and as a second home from 2011, when he moved in with his girlfriend, but kept the rental going.

The council are claiming as he occupied it from 2011 as a second home he is not liable for the rates as his main home is with his girlfriend.

Surely we do not have to pay the rates on a property that was occupied by a tenant for all that time when he had paid the rates in full?

The council have told us that it is a liability issue so we need to go to the valuation tribunal, they are also refusing to give us leave to go to the valuation tribunal, claiming we haven’t engaged with them, a complete lie.

We engaged our local councillor who was horrified by this and said he would help sort it, he has since been warned to stay out of it, by his political masters.

Any advice on how to fight this would be appreciated.

Thank you.

Susan



Comments

Beaver

12:09 PM, 16th August 2022, About 2 months ago

You've not said which Council this is.

This is Basingstoke's advice on who is liable for Council tax:

https://www.basingstoke.gov.uk/who-is-liable

Please note that their position is: "The liable person is the person whose name appears on the council tax bill."

If I were you I'd ask for copies of the bills from your tenant.

homemaker

12:40 PM, 16th August 2022, About 2 months ago

Susan, write to the Chief Executive and copy in the Heads of Revenue and Legal Services, with the information you have included above and request copies of the Councils Enforcement Policy and complaints procedure. Advise that you believe that you are the subject of local government maladministration and that you not only intend to defend your position but that you intend to pursue the matter with the Local Government Ombudsman to seek compensation. Local authorities are required to act proportionately and transparently so they must be clear about their reasons and demonstrate they have followed procedures correctly

Simon M

13:17 PM, 16th August 2022, About 2 months ago

I can't answer the specific question but it may help to know how this probably arose.

Councils can run a blanket process to check their data against credit reference for properties that may be liable for the Empty Homes charge - intended to discourage empty properties.

Your tenant's credit ref will have shown they moved out in 2011 which triggered the Council's action.

Further thoughts:
If the Council doesn't succeed on Empty Homes there may be a liability for a second home Council tax. To keep you tenant on your side you may want to offer to repay them.

A specialist once told me businesses are only liable for Business Rates from the date a bill is issued - perhaps there may be something like this buried in the Council Tax/Empty Homes legislation.

If the council is right then every tenant who had sublet would no longer be liable for Council Tax. There must be strong arguments that this would set a nationwide precedent.

I'd send an FoI request to ask the Council Fraud team how many cases over each of the last few years where they've found the Council's tenants had sublet. Then send a second FoI to ask how many of these tenants had been charged Empty Homes and backdated Council Tax. The answer will be none and proof the Council has acted unfairly. They're unlikely to want the public outrage that would ensue from issuing backdated bills to their own tenants, so back down.

It does sound as if you need good a solicitor.

Good luck

David

13:27 PM, 16th August 2022, About 2 months ago

My understanding of the Council Tax liability in this case is that its the occupants in the first instance, but yours if the tenant moves out or defaults as their tenancy was statutory periodic.

I dont know what this Council is up to, but it sounds politically motivated. I think you will need legal advice from a housing solicitor on how to fight this. You might want to also contact your MP.

For future reference, if you want to avoid any risk of liabllity, I suggest you document the tenancy properly and close your own CT account when a new tenant moves in, giving the Council the relevant tenant details.

Blodwyn

15:35 PM, 16th August 2022, About 2 months ago

The first step isto seek GOOD legal advice. Not the cheapest but the best.

If you are correct, you must hope the Magistrates decide in your favour. If they behave like some of the old fashioned Mags I found sometimes and find against you (if you are here, you must have done something wrong), appeal to the Crown Court.
That is effectively a rehearing before a proper Judge with 2 lay Magistrates. If you win, apply for your costs of the appeal and below.
I am a retired solicitor but now well out of touch with any new rules etc.

CMS View Profile

3:29 AM, 19th August 2022, About a month ago

Hi, my understanding is that if the property is occupied by someone over 18 as their main residence then they are liable for the Council Tax.

Unfortunately, if the property was either vacant or, as you seem to say, the property was occupied by a tenant but NOT as their main residence, then the owner of the property would be liable for the Council Tax for that period unless there was another occupier who was using the property as their main residence.

As a side point, I appreciate the previous tenant has said that from 2011 the property was not his main residence but, if he continued to pay full Council Tax on the property I assume he was only registered for Council Tax at your property and not at his girlfriend's. If that's the case why is it that he considered this not to be his main residence and what would the Council consider sufficient occupation for the property to amount to his main residence?

If you can make an argument for it you may be best trying to establish that the Tenants occupancy post 2011 did amount to it being his main residence and as he paid the Council Tax there is nothing owing.

Hope this helps. Good luck.

Charles

CMS View Profile

3:44 AM, 19th August 2022, About a month ago

Thinking about this, if you are going to run this argument, a good point for you to start would be the tenancy you granted to the tenant itself. If the tenant had an AST then your first point will be that you granted him an AST and so it should have been his main residence.

If you look on Council websites they give you more information about acceptable evidence (post received, club memberships, your items are kept) so you may be able to form a decent argument that this was the tenant's main residence.

The tenant sounds like he wants to help and is a decent person so i do hate to add this but, for completeness, if your AST does state that the property must be used as the tenant's main residence but it hasn't been you may be able to make a claim against him for your losses but it would depend on the tenancy provisions and whether you could live with yourself for doing it!

I'm not advocating taking action against the tenant (even if its your only option I don't think i would) but I should mention it for, as i say, completeness.

Best, Charles

Simon M

12:27 PM, 19th August 2022, About a month ago

The Council's own Council Tax records may also help. If your tenant's new partner was the only adult in their property they probably claimed Single Person Discount and the partner has independently affirmed it wasn't your tenant's main residence.

Councils annually match households claiming SPD against credit reference records called an SPD Review.

If the partner claimed SPD at any time the annual reviews would have identified the partner's claim as fraud and taken action. When they did, they would also have recorded your tenant's move out of your property, leaving it empty and they failed to act. More evidence to support an argument of the Council's maladministration.

chris View Profile

9:56 AM, 20th August 2022, About a month ago

Be very careful on how you approach this for example he moved in with his girlfriend no he didn’t he stayed at is girlfriend for period of time was you aware of this situation you will be asked did he pay full rent and this is something that will be most definitely already been asked by the council what utility use was there at the property and most of all if you loose your tenant will get a refund so get him on side and statements signed because £££ will change is story

pbez64 pbez64

10:01 AM, 20th August 2022, About a month ago

It is difficult to provide a comprehensive answer but the premium is only payable on properties that are unoccupied I.e. no-ones sole and/or main residence and substantially unfurnished. Where is evidence it has been like that for so many years? That would be part of any Appeal.You can complain about the actions of the council at the same time as that might mean someone sees sense but a liability dispute is an Appeal matter. There is some overlap. There is a legal defence via Encon of course and the later Ct case although its name escapes me at present. This means the Billing Authority actions have to be seen as reasonable and can be used to prevent billing going back many years. It sounds like the council have treated your tenant as having his sm residence elsewhere so have to treat your property as unoccupied but I don't understand how and why they can go back 18 years retrospectively. In all my years administering CT I have never backdated more than 1or 2 years and even then only when I am sure there is no error on the part of the LA and situation caused by deliberate action. Making sure your tenancy provides for contractual periodic tenancies would have stopped this. Oh and the council cannot stop you going to the VTS. The route is make a formal appeal to the Council under S.16 of the LGFA1992. Two months to make a decision or else you can approach the VTS direct. Even if council make a decion in the two months you can then approach the VTS. And remember prior to any hearing the council has to send you a copy of all its evidence as to why and how they reached their decision.

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