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...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.

OTheHugeManatee Tue 20-Nov-12 17:04:18

YABU. You own a property, you pay council tax on it at the appropriate rate unless it's let to someone else.

What's so special about you that the council should rewrite all the rules just because you don't like them?

OTheHugeManatee Tue 20-Nov-12 17:05:40

And WTF have the suffragettes got to do with anything? They were campaigning for the vote for women, not for council tax reductions on second properties confused

DragonMamma Tue 20-Nov-12 17:08:08

YknowUABU but council tax is one of my pet hates so I see why you have a bee in your bonnet.

Our council let you get away with not paying council tax on an unoccupied property if there's no furniture there. Is this an option for you? just shove it all in the attic

Oh dear, the suffragettes comment was ill-judged. People died for your right to vote, please don't belittle their sacrifice.

On the question of the CT, if someone had written an AIBU a year ago saying that they didn't think people should pay CT on a second home, what would you have said? It seems reasonable to pay for both homes. I know your situation is difficult.

Whoknowswhocares Tue 20-Nov-12 17:10:05

You own 2 houses and yet expect to be given special consideration! It's not even a case of 'cant pay' just 'won't pay'.
and then you come on here whinging to us and looking for sympathy? Why exactly do you think WE should be subsidising you?
PAY UP

INeedALieIn Tue 20-Nov-12 17:10:38

It is not so difficult to sell a property. Drop the price or auction.

ISeeSmallPeople Tue 20-Nov-12 17:13:56

You should not have written a letter.
You should have called & asked for an occupied form, & filled that in.

Is it unfurnished & unoccupied?

If yes, class c would have got you 6 months exemption.

Does it have a toilet? Or a kitchen?

If no, class a would have got you a 6 month exemption.

Try & see if you can get the exemption retrospectively applied.

ISeeSmallPeople Tue 20-Nov-12 17:15:30

unoccupied form

Unless you've already used up your exemption before May. If you've already had a 6 month exemption you can't have it again.

NatashaBee Tue 20-Nov-12 17:16:36

good advice from ISeeSmallPeople. You seem to be getting very hung up on what other people are doing, but the fact is that Starbucks was not the one who was left a small cottage on which they have to pay council tax, so that situation is nothing like yours.

Why can't you rent out either one of the properties? If there is work required on either one, then you may have to compromise on the amount of rent you receive, but surely that's better than accruing more council tax arrears.

avivabeaver Tue 20-Nov-12 17:22:26

how is the council supposed to take into account individual circumstances? they have rules, pretty simple ones really so that EVERYONE IS TREATED THE SAME.

that is fair. I have had a substantial drop in income in the last year- do i expect the council to cut me some slack? No, because they rules and rightly stick to them.

this is a minor inconvenience in selling one property and moving into another mortgage free at some stage. You have savings to cover it. It is not fair that your DM died (and no doubt you would give up the house in a heartbeat to have her back) but you are confusing the issues.

It is a tax on owning property - you own the property so you owe the tax.

Owning property is not onerous - if you sold or auctioned it you would still have had free money from inheritance and not owed any.

If you want to keep it to live in then you have to expect their is a financial cost of that.

And I'm pissed off that you think it's ok to waste politicians time and chief execs time when there are people with more difficult problems than suddenly owning a FREE second house angry

Sunnywithachanceofshowers Tue 20-Nov-12 17:31:30

YABVU. I had the same problem when I moved in with DH and took over a year to sell my last property.

1. Them's the breaks - your situation isn't that special and the councils still has to budget for services to your place
2. See 1.
3. The suffragettes would have directed you straight to the grip shop. And the council doesn't get any bunce from Vodafone...

ISeeSmallPeople Tue 20-Nov-12 17:32:48

She is eligible for a 6 month exemption. Same as everyone else. Landlords too smile
But if you don't apply for the right thing you don't get it.
Expect a site visit to verify unoccupied, unfurnished or
But you can only get it once, and if a previous owner used all of it within a set timescale that I don't know off the top of my head you can't have it.

ISeeSmallPeople Tue 20-Nov-12 17:33:10

Or kitchenless

shrimponastick Tue 20-Nov-12 17:35:22

My DPs own a house here, and a house at the coast. They live in one Mon to Fri and go to the coast every Fri eve until Sunday eve.

They have to pay two sets of council tax.?

It's not a personal tax, it is property.

PhallicGiraffe Tue 20-Nov-12 17:36:24

Sorry, but YABU. I got a years excemption from paying council tax as a property I was renovating was empty. You have to follow the rules the council make, and pay your council tax when you should. If you can't get an exemption then pay up!

Whoknowswhocares Tue 20-Nov-12 17:43:03

Addressing your gripes one by one

1 let's pretend the council did look on things case by case. You own 2 properties, you have savings so will not be caused short term hardship so there would be no reason for them to let you off
2 the total costs of the council are divided by the number of houses. It does not matter if no one lives there, the owner still owes their portion of the costs
3 however abhorrent, Starbucks et al are obeying the law (crap law admittedly but even so) You are attempting to ignore the law

the suffragettes would laugh in your face

Viviennemary Tue 20-Nov-12 17:47:48

Well I'm afraid that is the rule re council tax. Most councils give a few months after a death before tax is due. But if you own two houses the house you don't live in is counted as your second home whether it is or not. But if the house is empty of furniture and is being renovated sometimes this can mean no council tax due for a certain period.

scarletforya Tue 20-Nov-12 17:50:10

YABVU

I bet they laughed their tits off it was a fun day at the office when they got your letter.

You've fallen into the mistaken belief that your circumstances are exceptional. They're not. Owning two houses is hassle.

"The council do not treat people and their circumstances as individual cases"

Well, no, of course they don't. They have hundreds of thousands of houses to claim tax on. They can't look at each one and say 'oh dear, they've had a hard time let's not charge them tax this month'.

ISeeSmallPeople Tue 20-Nov-12 18:00:12

I have heard some people ask the council if they can have a discount as they are on holiday, so feel they shouldn't pay

Sabriel Tue 20-Nov-12 18:01:01

We moved away for work and had to rent a place here while still owning a house elsewhere. For a while I lived here and DH lived there and we had to pay 2 lots of council tax. Then he moved up with me and we still had to pay 2 lots of council tax for the whole year it took to sell. So we weren't living there and weren't using any facilities in our old town but still had to pay.

YANBU to think it is unfair (I certainly did) but YABVU to think you are a special case and refuse to pay.

StewieGriffinsMom Tue 20-Nov-12 18:07:59

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

FairPhyllis Tue 20-Nov-12 18:14:08

My parents are struggling to sell my grandmother's house after she died, despite dropping and dropping the price. They now have to pay council tax on it. Oh and they live 5 hours away from it so it's hard for them to be on the scene regularly. It's not an unusual situation and you will just have to suck it up like everyone else. You are not special.

Do the insurance company know the building is unoccupied?

WTF do the suffragettes have to do with it?

I wonder where the OP has disappeared to?

expatinscotland Tue 20-Nov-12 18:22:40

YABVU.

WineGoggles Tue 20-Nov-12 18:25:21

I didn't mean to liken myself to suffragettes; it was a daft comment and I realise that my little fight of the system is not the same as theirs was. If I could edit my post I would.

"the councils still has to budget for services to your place"
What services though? The fact they want 90% for an empty property (caused by circumstance) is excessive IMO. 50% would seem fairer for a while.

"Our council let you get away with not paying council tax on an unoccupied property if there's no furniture there. Is this an option for you?"
If I was going to be totally ruthless I could probably get a house clearer in an just get rid of the little that's there. But my mum had a couple of treasured items of furniture that I need to careful how I get rid of it. Silly I know but she made a point of asking me to be careful with them and it's a bit of an emotional topic. Other stuff would ideally go on Freecycle if I could guarantee they'd be collected - a 6 hour round trip for a no-show is not ideal. I've cleared what I could out, but I simply can't lug bigger things out on my own. This is why I asked the council for advice (since I figured they are the experts in this sort of thing) and they didn't give any advice at all.

"if someone had written an AIBU a year ago saying that they didn't think people should pay CT on a second home, what would you have said?"
Good point, MrsTP. I probably would've been envious that the person had inherited a property and consequently though the lucky bastard was being a bit BU. But envy or having a "I have to abide by the rules so everyone else should whatever their circumstances (instead of questioning the system)" is not the right attitude. It's a bit like getting arsey because certain people, eg footballers, get paid so much, when the problem is really about being pissed off we don't get paid enough.
I would also add that I wonder if those who think I should suck it up would be as keen to pay if they were in this situation. Methinks they wouldn't be quite so "those are the rules so tough".

Fair, I don't think I'm special and I don't think your parents should pay council tax either. Do you think they should pay? They are doing what they can so they should be shown some leniency don't you think? I just wish the rules were more flexible so that those in your parents' situation were not treated the same as those who have bought properties as a career choice and have come unstuck. IMO there's a big difference.

lisad123 Tue 20-Nov-12 18:28:06

Why should you get discount that no one else. You have choice to sell and it hasn't, but you have money ton pay up,map suggest you do before you get more charges

ISeeSmallPeople Tue 20-Nov-12 18:31:21

Basically you are paying to store the furniture. Can you pop the bits you want to keep in the loft or a small storage unit, & have a charity or house clearnance come round for the rest? British Heart foundation will arrange a date & collect. I'm sure other charities would too.

If empty you will get the discount. Backdating is unlikely since you've written to them & said it was furnished, but for 6 months on.

I've paid full council tax for a ridiculously large antique before. Bloody unreasonable. I did try to argue that since it was living there alone it should qualify as a single person, but failed. Briefly considered hiring it a sitter to live with it to get the discount

Fair enough and thanks for coming back. The fact is that there are sad things about what is happening. Your Mum's precious things, the long distance, the fact that your 'luck' came at such a price. However, the Council are short of time, money and staff. They can't look at every circumstance. I think maybe the wisdom of MN is saying, "suck it up and pay". Sorry for your loss thanks

cantspel Tue 20-Nov-12 18:37:55

If your mum died last year and they are billing from april then they have given you the 6 month exemption.

helpyourself Tue 20-Nov-12 18:42:05

Sorry for your loss.
You could sell it if you dropped the price or let it go to auction. It's unfair that you're paying for a house you're not occupying, and the council has been inefficient, but you still have to pay.

FairPhyllis Tue 20-Nov-12 18:42:07

Yeah, actually I do think they (well, the estate, as the house is being split between DM and her siblings) should pay the council tax. Council tax is a tax on owning property. The estate owns the house. So it owes council tax. It's unfortunate we couldn't sell the house in 6 months but them's the breaks. It will probably have to be auctioned in the New Year.

I think they could say that it is unoccupied and perhaps get some money knocked off, but then they would have to declare it as unoccupied to the insurance company (they are currently camping out in it for a night every 30 days for insurance purposes) and then the premiums would go up anyway. So swings and roundabouts.

There's a 6 month exemption, isn't there? Why didn't you put your energy into selling your cottage in that period you had instead of embarking on this insane council tax crusade? How would you realistically expect councils to determine who is genuine about intending to sell an inherited property and who is planning to keep one as a second home?

OutragedAtThePriceOfFreddos Tue 20-Nov-12 18:43:31

I don't think yabu. If you are not living there and not receiving any of that councils services, I don't see why you should pay their tax. No one should have to pay council tax twice.

WineGoggles Tue 20-Nov-12 19:01:22

Thanks for your understading MrsTP. I'm normally such a goody-goody and never question rules but this has really got under my skin.

"^Do the insurance company know the building is unoccupied?"^
No, because it's not insured.

"^You could sell it if you dropped the price or let it go to auction^"
The jury is out on that one though. I've had estate agents say my cottage is too good for an auction so not to put it in one because people are looking for renovatipon projects, even though I'd be happy to with a reasonable reserve - I'm expecting to lose tens of thousands on it but I don't want to give it away. I've just changed agents to one who works on a fixed fee (so aren't motivated to overprice it) and they reckon the main reason it's not sold is because too many EAs aren't proactive enough; they put it on the internet and do sod all else (which is my experience so far unfortunately). I've already tried reducing the price and it made no difference to the interest I got. This agent advises against reducing it.

"There's a 6 month exemption, isn't there? Why didn't you put your energy into selling your cottage in that period you had instead of embarking on this insane council tax crusade?"
Probably because I was naive about the rules until I had a bill come through my door. Plus I was grieving so not firing on all cylinders. At the same time I really started to question life and the universe, including the political system and became angry about things.

"How would you realistically expect councils to determine who is genuine about intending to sell an inherited property and who is planning to keep one as a second home?"
Well, I'm not selling the inherited property I'm trying to sell the cottage I'm living in. Once the cottage I'm living in sells I shall immediately move to the bungalow where the council tax is owed. All they would have to do is go online and check the estate agent's advert for the cottage and I could've sent them my Mum's death certificate with proof that she used to own the bungalow.

CwtchesAndCuddles Tue 20-Nov-12 19:07:36

YABVeryU

The rules are the same for everyone to ensure fairness. I don't think you have been hard done by at all!!!

Pay what you owe and stop complaining about it!!!

Anger is part of grieving so that is understandable. Much easier to focus on the evil, mean Council than the sadness around you. Fixed fee EA is a good idea. Have you read Freakanomics about EAs and how they are motivated? Now, there's something you can get really angry about smile

SugarPasteSnowflake Tue 20-Nov-12 19:13:58

Sorry for your loss.

YABU though. Your council tax pays towards the police and fire service in that area, amongst other things. If the bungalow caught fire, I presume you'd expect the fire service to attend and tackle it? If so then you need to pay up!

BTW using Starbucks etc al as an example of why you shouldn't pay is silly. Trying to justify breaking the rules because someone else has, isn't a viable defence. FWIW Starbucks hasn't broken any rules; unfortunately tax avoidance isn't illegal, just morally questionable.

IneedAsockamnesty Tue 20-Nov-12 19:16:44

Yabvu.

Unfurnished and occupied homes are exempt from ct for 6 months after probate ( if inherited) second homes are also subject to a discount of between 10% & 50%

It's your responsibility to deal with doing it and applying not there responsibility to chase you to.

WineGoggles Tue 20-Nov-12 19:28:43

"Your council tax pays towards the police and fire service in that area, amongst other things. If the bungalow caught fire, I presume you'd expect the fire service to attend and tackle it? If so then you need to pay up!"
Now that's an argument I can understand and not one I'd thought of!

"BTW using Starbucks etc al as an example of why you shouldn't pay is silly"
I know they aren't really comparable but it was just my feeling that if these big companies were more ethical in their tax paying, and if the government closed the loopholes in the law so they had to pay the millions they "owe", then perhaps there wouldn't be all the austerity measures that effect us little people. We are most certainly not "in this together".

Viviennemary Tue 20-Nov-12 19:45:39

There are ways round this. Quite legitimate and legal ones. But not always ones you may wish to take. If a full time student rented the cottage from you or even lived in it rent free they would not be required to pay council tax. Some people buy a second 'home' for their student offspring. Hey presto no Council Tax. Would a possibility not be for you to move immediately into the other property and rent out the one you can't sell for the time beng till the market improves.

ArtexMonkey Tue 20-Nov-12 20:09:04

The council still make rubbish collections on the road where the unoccupied house is, they still have to light and maintain that road and the roads leading to it, all of which benefits you the owner in clearing it out, maintaining it, accessing it, and protecting it. This stuff isn't free.

Op, there is a poster on this thread who has had advice to go to her mp after being asked to repay benefits rceived while her child was terminally ill. THAT'S what you call a problem, that is the kind of thing mps should be freed up to deal with.

Your crusade and posturing are ridiculous, as is your assumption that everyone telling you to pay up is a jealous pauper.

ArtexMonkey Tue 20-Nov-12 20:10:38

2nd homes have always been eligible to pay council tax, it's not an austerity measure.

ArtexMonkey Tue 20-Nov-12 20:11:04

Liable, not eligible, even.

WelshMaenad Tue 20-Nov-12 20:38:27

Fuck me, some people are compassionless bastards.

OP, I'm so sorry you lost your mum. Yes, inheriting a second property is lucky but I know you'd much rather have your mum still with you.

I don't agree that council tax is a tax on owning a property. Tenants pay it. It's a tax in residing in a property, and the OP isn't residing there, she isn't using any of the facilities that council tax funds - refuse collection, libraries, schools, leisure centres - so I do understand her annoyance in paying top dollar for basically fuck all in return; especially when inheritance tax will already have been applied. It sucks, and I think there should be a mechanism to pay a 'ticking over' fee, at 5-10% of standard CT for a property, in circumstances of death/inheritance.

A friend of mine surrendered her property to the mortgage holder when her partner left her in fire financial straits a few years ago. She was renting just up the road. Despite this, the council forced her to pay CT on the house up to the day the bank auctioned it off, and they dragged their bastard feet. After all she'd been through and having been left in epic debt already, this nearly broke her spirit. Council didn't give a fuck. Awful.

ratspeaker Tue 20-Nov-12 20:54:37

* FairPhyliis* we didn't pay council tax on my mums place after she died. We had to keep letting the council know, basically confirming it was part of a dead persons estate and no one was living in it, send in photocopy of death certificate etc. Maybe your parents need to re iterate that to the council.
As my mum hadn't left a will it took ages to sort out her estate; took around 9 months just to get Confirmation ( Scottish equivalent of Probate ).
Any expenses incurred until property and chattels are sold should come out of the estate.
After we got Confirmation mums place was put in my sis name so she had to pay council tax on it even though she had another house down in England.

OP is the bungalow still part of your mum's estate or has it been put in your name now?
If its in your name it sound like you are being given 10% reduction for it being a 2nd home.
Councils don't go online to check whether something is up for sale, the onus is on the person paying the tax to provide information, ie sending in death certificates, finding out which form you need and filling/sending them in.
Its hard after someone dies, I know.

As a wee thought could you rent out your mums house to students until yours sells?

Sirzy Tue 20-Nov-12 21:01:09

Why isn't it insured? If something happens you will have much more than council tax to worry about.

If you had gone about things in the right way you would have got a grace period of tax (6 months furnished, 6 months unfurnished I think) and perhaps the council should have made the process clearer but you should have found out.

You certainly shouldn't expect it free because of your circumstances. it took us 18 months to sell my nans house after she died, we didn't expect any exceptions to the rules though. I would imagine a vast majority of empty houses which someone else is responsible for are because of bereavement.

LessMissAbs Tue 20-Nov-12 22:06:04

YABU sorry. You have not made yourself aware of the Council Tax rules (nor claimed the 6 months exemption for unnocupied and unfurnished) nor taken steps to decrease the liability.

You could of course simply have put it on the market straight away in the condition its in, if you were prepared to let it go cheaply enough it would quite likely have sold by now.

Or got a tenant. In actual fact, getting a tenant on a low income for a peppercorn rent would have benefitted you financially as they would probably have got a Council tax exemption.

You are fortunate to inherit a property, fortunate to own two properties and fortunate enough to be in a position to even think of uprooting to live in a property 6 hours drive away. I'm afraid my heart doesn't really bleed for you because you have one dog to organise in any potential move.

I think its up to you to take the responsibility to organise your affairs better, and not expect the Council to do it for you.

ratspeaker Tue 20-Nov-12 22:07:30

btw you will be fighting a losing battle if think you can take a stand against councils and tax
anyone remember the "don't pay the Poll Tax" ?
way back in the Thatcher era,
it was rolled out in Scotland before England,
hundreds/thousands of Scots refused to pay
the councils up here chased down everyone they could, garnishing wages , involving debt collection agencies and so on
Its a law, they have the power to enforce it, whether you agree or not.

Send the council copies of your mum's death certificate if you have not already done so.

Is the kitchen useable? ie is the cooker old? Do you intend to replace?
Same with the sink?
If you plan to replace them it might be worth having them removed now

As I understand it if you dont have a useable kitchen ( or bathroom) then council tax will not apply, ( whether they will view this sympathetically after previous correspondence with you is another matter.)
BUT if the appliances are old and not up to current standards( ie no cutoff when lighting gas hob or maybe lead plumbing ) you may have a case for removing them now on safety grounds.
Is there any suggestion of rot or woodworm which would require the removal of bathroom or kitchen fitments?

LessMissAbs Tue 20-Nov-12 22:23:10

All they would have to do is go online and check the estate agent's advert for the cottage and I could've sent them my Mum's death certificate with proof that she used to own the bungalow

How much spare time and initiative do you think the average Council have? Why didn't you send them these things?

Much of the problem is that you have allowed the debt to mount up and not done anything about it.

FairPhyllis Tue 20-Nov-12 23:36:03

OP I really think you need to insure it. If it burns down you will be left with nothing.

rat Thanks, but probate was granted over 6 months ago. The 6 month exemption is from when probate is granted, not from the death of the owner. So in practice people get a bit more than 6 months to sort things out.

EllenParsons Tue 20-Nov-12 23:55:31

YABU

whois Wed 21-Nov-12 00:08:47

Annoying as it is, you have to pay the CT.

I fin income tax annoying but hey ho.

YABU

bureni Wed 21-Nov-12 00:15:42

I have never paid council tax and never will though I do pay rates which covers the usual council services but includes water, I was accessed about 5 years ago and had a 100% increase in my rates which I disputed, the council sent out one of their little wannabees and after showing him a broken sewer pipe on my neighbors wall and a couple of dead rats that my cat had killed the rates dropped back to their original level of £300 quid a year. Fight them all the way.

Wallison Wed 21-Nov-12 00:26:45

^ the councils up here chased down everyone they could, garnishing wages , involving debt collection agencies and so on
Its a law, they have the power to enforce it, whether you agree or not.

While I do think the OP is unreasonable, I would have to dispute that the poll tax was collected from everyone deemed liable to pay it. I know people who worked in local govt at the time and they let a lot of cases go just because there were so many of them. Also, the non-payment campaign (and subsequent riots) were so successful that they pretty much brought down a govt. I myself never paid it. A bill arrived for me at my parents' house and my mum rang the council and said "She's not here any more; she lives in ..." and the person on the other end of the phone interrupted her and said "You don't need to tell me where she is. If you tell me where she is I can send her a bill. If you don't, I can't. Just tell me that she's no longer at that address". And if that conversation happened once, you can bet it happened thousands of times over.

However ... if you own two properties, of course you have to pay council tax on them both.

bureni Wed 21-Nov-12 00:39:19

I own 2 properties,One has no council services at all including water, the council did try to bill me for services that they did not provide but could provide, they were told to take a run a jump which they did.

I am very sorry for your loss OP.

But YABU....

By all means don't pay BUT

If the house gets vandalised - don't call the Police, you haven't paid for them.

If the house gets broken in to - don't call the Police, you haven't paid for them.

If the house catches fire - don't expect the Fire Brigade to come and put it out, instead it will just have to burn totally to the ground, Mum's furniture and all - because YOU HAVEN'T PAID FOR THEM.

These are all things I would never wish on anyone, but the point is, if God forbid they did happen you would want the above services to come. You would want the Fire Brigade to put a fire out whilst you still had a house. Of course you would, who wouldn't?

But CT pays for the Police and Fire Service amongst other things - so if you don't pay why should you get to use them?

Pay the bill.

(And FGS get some insurance!!!)

AmberLeaf Wed 21-Nov-12 01:05:55

What Welshmaenad said!

'council tax is a tax on owning property' err no it isnt confused

bureni Wed 21-Nov-12 01:23:23

Coola, do you actually for one minute think the police catch criminals who rob or vandalise a house? what country do you live in and why should the Op pay for a useless non existant service?

I work in the council department that deals with MP enquiries and complaints. And if slightly ott letters come then we do have bit of a sniggering (fondly recalls man who compared difficulty parking and then getting to Afghanistan).

If you wish to complain about the council on the grounds of them not informing you and thus administering then go ahead. However it is not the local authorities duty to check up on whether a property is for sale or going through probate etc. If you can post on mumsnet then you can access the information on the LAs website about council tax exemptions etc. Which apply to all otherwise the council would be guilty of maladministration and the ombudsman who be very cross!

HKat Wed 21-Nov-12 07:20:33

Yabu - what makes you so special?

trixie123 Wed 21-Nov-12 07:33:03

oh dear OP, I think AIBU was a bad place for your thread! I am sorry for your loss and understand why you would LIKE the council to be able to take individual circumstances into account - in an ideal world they could and would but realistically, they have to have blanket rules and the likelihood is that even if one dept sent you a letter saying you didn't have to pay, another would tell you you were being prosecuted for non payment. Seems to me you can either wait until it goes to court and try and get the judge to see things your way (which is a big risk), or make sure you are doing everything you can to reduce your liability in the short term by unfurnishing it etc and pay. I do also sympathise with trying to sell your house - we tried for over a year, with a realistic price but the market is VERY tough. Is letting it really not an option - just seems that might be a short term solution at the least - get a good agent and it won't matter if you are far away.

Just pay the tax or sell the property, or rent out yours and live in the other whilst it is renovated. Stop being ridiculous. I have more reason to be pissed than you - a tiny corner of my house could theoretically be lived in as an annexe. It isn't, there are only two of us in the house, but as it could be I am charged 2 council taxes for one house. So, having a small kitchenette area costs me well over £1000pa. If I removed the kitchenette I would still be charged this as 'it could be re-instated'. I don't like it, but I pay it.

CabbageLeaves Wed 21-Nov-12 07:37:30

People always assume CT is a sort of tax like rental for time spent in a property. Imagine villages in Cornwall - Port Isaac lets say.... Go to the harbour area and 50%???? Are holiday properties.

Unoccupied apart from summer

So should they pay reduced CT? The council still maintains light, roads, police, fire service etc for the whole year. They cannot give a % service matching the % council tax the holiday home owners feel matches their usage of the property.

It feels unfair but you are paying for services provided all yr round even if you choose/don't use them

Hopeforever Wed 21-Nov-12 07:48:23

I am sorry your mother died, grief slows you down and makes everything then times harder.

But please, please make sure the building has insurance, and if you are planng on keeping anything inside the bungalow get contents insurance too.

You say you have savings, this is some thing you need to use them for.

Bureni if the Police didn't catch and successfully prosecute burglars and vandals then my days would be very quiet indeed as they make up a significant proportion of my caseload.

Oh and I live in the real world - - unlike you by the sounds of it.-- If you called 999 they would come - they TaDaaaa! The council services you claim not to have.

YABU

Icelollycraving Wed 21-Nov-12 08:55:23

Yabu.
You really need to insure the house. As others have said,you may (let's hope not) need the service of the emergency services. Pay up,the comments about the suffragettes are insensitive,they didn't fight for avoiding council tax.

Mrsjay Wed 21-Nov-12 08:57:08

pay your council tax you will get fined and the debt will follow you forever you are not making a stand for the greater good you just dont want to pay it Pay it

when i was really skint I couldnt afford my council tax so i was sporadic paying we nearly ended up in court because of it, rent out your cottage move into the bungalow , the sufforogettes comment hmm

Are you aware that now the council have taken you to court and have a liability order, if you dont pay they will send bailiffs round?

I'm not going to debate the rights and wrongs of your situation, I'm just making you aware that if a bailiff comes round, the amount you owe will go up and up.

Mrsjay Wed 21-Nov-12 09:11:08

what Tantrums said I didnt get the baliffs as i am in scotland it is dealt with differently, and also OP this will follow you for a long time if you want to get credit for anything just pay it make an arrangemenht with that council get a payment plan

WineGoggles Wed 21-Nov-12 09:20:22

The councils make a point of telling people to get in touch if they are having problems which is what I did. I explained that whatever I chose to do was going to cause issues in one way or another and without advice from people in the know I just didn't know what to do for the best. I know from reading MN that other people deal with far worse and awkward situs than mine, but I didn't have MN back then

£230 a month is a lot to pay without challenging it, which is what I tried to do, and I got angry when 1. I felt that 90% tax was a hell of a lot considering it's an accidental "2nd home", and 2. the council didn't bother replying to me at all (so bollocks to the whole "get in touch if you need help" suggestion). I got bloody minded and thought why the f* should I pay until you acknowledge my letter. Stupid I know because what do they care.

"You say you have savings, this is some thing you need to use them for"
You're right and I've gone online and paid it. It's just I've saved all my life, been careful, never had benefits etc, and I'm losing money right left and centre (like many people) and this is just gutting. It's the high amount I find difficult to swallow as much as anything else.

"I do also sympathise with trying to sell your house - we tried for over a year, with a realistic price but the market is VERY tough. Is letting it really not an option"
Although I could let the cottage that would mean taking it off the market for 6 months then trying to sell it possibly with a sitting tenant. I keep hearing horror stories that it makes it far more difficult to sell that way. Plus, and sorry for drip feeding, but I have to sell the cottage because I'm caught in an exBF/joint mortgage situ (his name is on the mortgage but I own 99% of the property after buying him out) and he got threatening (badly enough for it to freak me and for me to let the Police know in case anything happened to me!) because it wasn't selling quick enough. He would go ballistic if it came off the market and I'd have more to worry about.

I do not think I'm special, just someone who has become rather overwhelmed with life crap over the last few years and tried to make my annoyance at the system known. Although I seem sorted on the outside, on the inside I'm a mass of anxiety and feel very alone. When I moved with my exBF I left the few friends I have a long way away and living in the sticks have become quite isolated here. So I may be "lucky to have inherited a house" but I don't feel that great about it.

I'd love to let the bungalow if there was some way of the tenancy being on a month by month basis (but who would want that?) and the tenants didn't care that it needed an overhaul, but it seems the options are always 6 months contracts then rolling monthly. And agents advise making the place nice or people have no respect for it. The thought of selling the cottage then finding myself homeless is one stress too far for me I'm afraid. And I know other people cope but I'm not doing so well.

WineGoggles Wed 21-Nov-12 09:24:33

MrsJay et al; the suffragettes comments was supposed to be tongue in cheek after a friend told me I'd be chaining myself to railings next, but I appreciate that that others wouldn't have realised that. I've read about the work they did and mine is not on that level at all. As I said, if MN had an edit facility I would've changed it.

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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