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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.

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!

MsFanackerPants Wed 21-Nov-12 18:48:02

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.

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.

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

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

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.

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.

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

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

In occupied should read unoccupied

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.

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?


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.

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.

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.

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

TantrumsAndBalloons Wed 21-Nov-12 09:07:52

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 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

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

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.

VoiceofUnreason Wed 21-Nov-12 08:45:17


CoolaSchmoola Wed 21-Nov-12 08:23:09

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.

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.

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

worsestershiresauce Wed 21-Nov-12 07:34:50

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.

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.

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

Yabu - what makes you so special?

MsFanackerPants Wed 21-Nov-12 02:16:09

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!

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