Advanced search 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.

MrsTerryPratchett Tue 20-Nov-12 18:22:10

I wonder where the OP has disappeared to?

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


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

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

MrsTerryPratchett Tue 20-Nov-12 18:31:41

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


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!!!

MrsTerryPratchett Tue 20-Nov-12 19:08:36

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

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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


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

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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?

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