...to continue trying to fight the system and not pay council tax?

(86 Posts)
WineGoggles Tue 20-Nov-12 17:00:20

Probably (because I could pay the tax from my savings), but I have a bee in my bonnet over this and I don't want to take it lying down. My situation is this (sorry it's long):

My Mum died last year and left me her small bungalow. I'm desperately trying to sell my cottage so I can go and live in it but this is proving difficult. I looked into letting the bungalow but it needs quite a bit of work first and I'd also have to let it for at least 6 months. Fair enough, but if I sell the cottage I then need to find somewhere for me and my dog until the tenant moves out. Letting the cottage just creates a different set of problems and anxieties and is not an option.

Another issue is that the bungalow is a 6 hour round trip away so it's not straightforward to nip there and do renovations. I don't know anyone who can help me or anyone down there who can let tradesmen in on my behalf. It's all down to me to sort out.

So it looks like the option is to stay put, try and sell the cottage while the bungalow remains unoccupied, and I feel like I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place. I wrote to the council back in May to explain the awkward situation I'm in and asked for their advice. I heard nothing so after a couple of weeks and a payment reminder later, I chased them up. The answer was that the relevant department had received my letter and were dealing with it, that they would get back to me in due course. To cut a long story short the council have been terrible; they never mentioned my letter only what the rules are. I tried to reason with them but things escalated and I got a court summons, so at that point I contacted my local MP for help. He said he'd contact the chief executive of the council and get back to me. This was over a month ago and I've not had an answer even though I've chased it up twice now. In the meantime the system hasn't stopped and I've now received a "notice of liability order" from the council. I called the council and they simply didn't give a shit until I mentioned I'd got my MP involved and then they got a little helpful saying I could defer payment until the sale of my cottage provided my solicitor wrote to them. (I'm now waiting for the solicitors to call me back tomorrow as they were in meetings today...tsk!).

I am now in the position where I have owed 90% council tax on the bungalow since April/May 2012. If I lived there I would get a single person discount and only have to pay 75%. Obviously I have no idea how long it would take my cottage to sell - it could be next week, it could be another 2 years - which makes it harder to arrange or plan anything.

I know IBU because I could put up and shut up and simply pay up, but I don't think it's right. The bee in my bonnet is three-fold;
1. The council do not treat people and their circumstances as individual cases and do not use any discretion. They have a"these are the rules so tough" mentality until you bring in the bigger guns.

2. I appreciate councils do not want properties empty but I also don't think they should charge so much council tax when it's a situation like mine. It's not as though I'm using any of their facilities or I'm a career landlord. Although I consider myself very lucky to have inherited a home I didn't want my beloved mother to die prematurely...[resists urge to waffle on and it turn into a "it's not fair" tantrum].

3. When we take into account that many multi million/billion pound companies - such as Vodaphone, Starbucks, Boots, Tesco - are getting out of paying their share of tax to the UK, it seems even more unfair that they make sure us plebs don't get away with avoiding a penny. I can really see where the suffragettes were coming from.

YABU....but.......

So sorry about the loss of your mum.

When my mum died I went a bit mad with grief and took everything personally and literally thought that the world was about me because my mum had died. It wasn't though and it carried on as usual.

it's annoying OP but yes, you do have to pay it, you do not have a valid reason not to. There are millions of people in your sad situation.

LessMissAbs Wed 21-Nov-12 09:38:41

OP - I'm going to come across as a bit harsh here, but I really think you are the author of your own problems. You are very fortunate to be in the position of owning two houses, and in comparison to the value of a house, the Council tax debt isn't that high. And you had savings!

My mother died two years ago, I had to deal with all of this stuff, as do many other people, including house clearance of her rented home, and I got nothing out of it. It was hard work, and involved dealing with stuff like writing to the Council Tax, stopping payments, informing people, house clearance (took me 3 days) and so on.

It sounds as though you have had the property for about a year at least and still haven't done anything with your mother's furniture. You claim its valuable, yet you don't have the house insured. You haven't applied for any exemptions, but blame the Council and "the system" for not reading your mind and applying for the exemptions for you. As one poster above pointed out, you can post on here, so you can read the exemption categories and rules for Council Tax on the internet.

Whats worse is that you don't even seem to have a plan to get things sorted out. Saying you can't do that because theres furniture in it is just ridiculous - hire a van and go and collect the furniture and put it in your own house, or pay for a storage company to come and collect it. How do you think people like me got our mother's houses cleared when they passed away!

In fact, everything anyone suggests is met by you with a reason it can't be done. It seems you want someone else to do it all for you, in which case, and the house is probably going to get more and more uninhabitable, and you are going to have to pay the full Council Tax on it at some stage because you are causing a property to be left empty, which is what "the system" is partly designed to discourage. I'm glad you've dipped into your savings to pay what you owe, and perhaps you should consider applying for a proper exemption in the categories which it falls under, to save money?

IDontDoIroning Wed 21-Nov-12 09:40:22

Council tax is a charge that is 50% property and 50% personal.

It is based on 2 people occupying it.

The liable person is either the occupier ( owner or tenant) or the land lord / owner if empty.

If the property it occupied by 1 person there is a 25% reduction ( half of 50%)

Empty properties have 6 months free IF YOU APPLY FOR IT.

After that if it is in occupied and UNFURNISHED you should only pay 50% . IF YOU APPLY FOR IT and get all the furniture out. (this is the property element only. )

They may also have an discretionary exemption for the balance if you were to ask.

OP you haven't helped yourself here. Council tax depots are very busy and they don't have the time to investigate issues or make guesses or fill in the gaps in missing info.

Write in to them plain English not mrs Ranty and set out the facts explain send in ANY/ ALL relevant info ie copies of death cert probate etc and proof you live elsewhere.

Get the property emptied of furniture.

Otherwise you may find yourself with a liability order and a reference on your credit file.

IDontDoIroning Wed 21-Nov-12 09:41:30

In occupied should read unoccupied

The council tax department are ruthless...pay now or you will just incur lots of extra charges. You will never win against them.

aquashiv Wed 21-Nov-12 13:15:14

When I bought our next house unbeknown to us there was already a 6 month exclusion as the house was unoccupied . We took over renovations but had to pay although we also werent living there. I was also paying CT on another property. That felt unfair as we were new owners and whatever exclusions made to previous owners shouldnt be relevant to us. We werent living in that county either. We had to pay.

You need to look again at your options you are in a very fortunate position to have TWO properties.

WelshMaenad Wed 21-Nov-12 15:28:02

Lessmissabs, after my grandfather died it took us a year to get the property cleared, and there were four two useful children and a number of grandchildren. That house had been the centre of our lives for so long, it took a lot of loin girding to go through everything, not to mention getting all the antiques and chills tables valued and auctioned.

Maybe we'd have been faster if we'd had to vacate a rented property, but we didn't so we took our time. People react to bereavement in different ways, it doesn't make your way the 'right' one.

WelshMaenad Wed 21-Nov-12 15:28:51

Collectables, not chill tables. Grandad didn't run a mortuary.

nickelrocketgoBooooooom Wed 21-Nov-12 15:47:12

it's not insured?

then you're just an idiot.

unoccupied properties can also be broken into, vandalised and burned down.

WineGoggles, the £230 a month, is that for one property or is that the bills for the bungalow AND your home? If it's for just the bungalow, then it seems incredibly high, I agree. And that could be something you challenge with the Council.

If you have proof you contacted the council to make arrangements for payment or to clarify what was due, and they ignored you, then you could complaint, If after exhausting the complaints system you feel the Council are still not dealing with it you could go to the LGO.

However, it depends on the nature of the contact you had, if it was just to say I don't think it's fair I've got to pay for this, I never asked to have two properties and they just confirmed the rate you had to pay as a 2nd home owner, then they haven't neglected their duty.

CwtchesAndCuddles Thu 22-Nov-12 19:46:24

Please make sure you take out insurance on the property, you are taking a crazy risk by not having it!

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