Is your neighbour paying less council tax than you?
Is your neighbour paying less council tax than you?
BISF homes attract some of the lowest council tax charges in the UK, thanks to low charging bands that typically range between Bands A through to C, which is good news for the majority of BISF owners.
The bad news is that during a BISF house investigation into council tax charges in England & Wales, we found shocking evidence of major charging discrepancies which could be costing you thousands of pounds in overpaid council tax.
We know that council tax bands vary from area to area but we did not expect to find tax bands changing from house to house within the very same street!
Take Holly Close in Swindon. At the bottom of this small close is a row of four typical BISF houses. Each house looks identical apart from colour, but delve a little deeper into the world of council tax banding and all is not what it appears to be.
The two houses on the left of the close are rated Band B and this costs the occupants £1085 in charges per year. The same can be said for the house on the far right. The house in the middle however is classified under Band A, which is the lowest band rating available and paying a charge of just £930 per year, or £155 less than the adjoining neighbours.
How widespread is this?
We found evidence of numerous similar instances in almost every area that we examined, where neighbours living in identical houses in the same street paid different rates of council tax amounting to hundreds of pounds a year. We also concluded that blunders such as this, most often occurred where BISF Houses were placed in areas intermixed with other types of houses, such as traditional brick or houses of alternative non-traditional construction.
Holly Close in Swindon is occupied exclusively by BISF Houses and is joined by Mulberry Grove which contains a mixture of house types that attract different Council Tax charges and banding levels. In the road leading directly to Holly Close we found a row of ten properties where neighbours living just doors apart, in identical houses, appear again to be paying very different rates of Council Tax.
On positive note, houses directly opposite the BISF homes in Mulberry Grove are constructed from traditional brick and as such, are rated as Band 'C' with a hefty charge of £1240 per year, or just £122 less than the £1362 that the Her Majesty the Queen pays for Buckingham Palace.
Errors such as this are not just confined to Swindon. Take Canberra Crescent, Dagenham where we found a row of three properties, two of which were listed under tax band 'C' and the third listed as band 'D', with a charge difference of £147 per year.
In todays current climate where many families are struggling just to meet basic needs, sums such as this should not be ignored and we have found it to be happening in every county in the UK.
If your house is in the wrong council tax band, you may find that you are entitled to have your council tax bill reduced and win a refund windfall at the same time.
Council tax - how it works
Most English and Scottish homes were put into council tax bands in 1993 and have not been reassessed since. Wales however was reassessed in 2003 and rates reset in April 2005.
Official figures show that one in 20 homes have been found to be in too high a council tax band with estimates suggesting that many more homes may be in the wrong bracket. This is partly due to poor valuations and a haphazard and error-ridden system based on guesses by estate agents.
What can I do?
First you need to check what you are paying compared to your neighbours and other BISF House residents in your street. You can do this very easily by visiting http://www.mycounciltax.org.uk/content/index . Simply enter your postcode and you will see a list of council tax valuations for your street.
Owners in Scotland should visit the Scottish Assesors http://www.saa.gov.uk/
Be sure to check out your entire street which may have a slightly different postcode. You can find your neighbours postcode by visiting the Royal Mail Postcode Finder http://www.royalmail.com/postcode-finder/ .
If you home is in the wrong band you are able to ask for reassessment and you might pay less, and you may also receive a rebate. But be warned - you could also see your bill rise, especially if your home has been extended or converted.
The Valuations Office Agency says 4.3%, or 903,000, of the 21m homes in England had their council tax band reduced in 15 years after 1993.
Remember that the valuation of your property in England would have been the original value set back in 1991.
Who do I contact?
Banding appeals can be made at the Valuation Office Agency, in England, or the Scottish Assessors Association, in Scotland.
If you think you might be in the wrong band, compare your banding with similar properties in the neighbourhood.
You can check on voa.gov.uk or call 03000 501 501 in England, 0300 050 5505 in Wales, or contact the Scottish Assessors Association (saa.gov.uk or call your local office).
If you then suspect you are paying too much, contact your local VOA or SAA office and explain why you think that your bill is incorrect. It will take about 30 working days for it to let you know the outcome.
(Download the Government How To Guide here VO7857_disagree_ct_banding)
If it agrees the band is wrong, it will change it. The service is free and your council will then update your tax bill. And you will have any previous overpayments refunded.
You may be informed that you are unable to challenge your band, as you have lived in the property more than six months.
However, don't give up. There is a legal obligation to ensure properties are in the right band, so you should insist on a check and explain why it is required in a letter.
If the Valuation Office still turns you down you can go to the Adjudicator's Office.
If you are unsure as to what the value may be of your current property, you can take advantage of the Nationwide property value calculator HERE.
Remember, you could save yourself thousands of pounds if you are being charged the wrong Council tax but band levels can also be raised in some cases if they are found to have been set too low.
For more information visit https://www.gov.uk/browse/housing/council-tax