Tenants Using Council Tax Exemption Period

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  • Tenants Using Council Tax Exemption Period

    This is just a heads-up and I'm aware that each Council is different (locally, North East Lincolnhshire, we are now only able to apply for 30 days exemption from Council tax) but recently, a tenant who was responsible for our property until the 24th April, told the Council he had moved to a new house on 26th March and therefore, as he was no longer living in our property, was able to invoke the 30 day exemption. When he returned the keys to us as expected on 24th April and we applied for the exemption, we were informed by the Council that it had already been utilised by the tenant and we would be liable for payment from the day he left/the exemption ran out, so no free period for us

    This is the second time we have encountered this since the new rules. Although in the above example there is no reason to believe the tenant was telling untruths, the Council don't help things by failing to send their officers out to check properties are vacant and substantially unfurnished.

  • #2
    I would tell the council that the tenant was responsible for council tax while he was in possession.

    Comment


    • #3
      It's interesting seeing how council's are determining this.

      You can appeal their decision to the Valuation Tribunal. You have 2 months in which to do this (except in exceptional circumstances). It is free with no costs if you lose. Hopefully council's will realise landlords are not a great cash cow after all and 'computer says no' is costing them more in being challenged at tribunals.

      The appeal form is here;
      http://www.valuationtribunal.gov.uk/A1Form.aspx

      Don't forget to appeal the council tax banding if it looks dodgy (most of them were decided on the back of a fag packet in 1991). As the new person responsible for council tax, you have 3 months to appeal. It is free with no costs if you lose.

      Process here;
      https://www.gov.uk/council-tax-appea...enge-your-band

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      • #4
        I'm glad you posted this as the same thing occurred to me today. My T has the tenancy until mid june but I suspect she has moved out. I got a council tax bill today starting from mid May.I phoned them to day the T was still in the property. Then I realised my mistake and phoned them to 'book' the 30 days from the time the T leaves. The council agreed. I must amend my TA to say that Ts are responsible for council tax without exemptions until the end of the tenancy or something to that effect.

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        • #5
          Thanks boletus, I'll look into that.

          @JK0 - The way the Council see it is that they acknowledge the tenant is responsible for the property (just as I am responsible for my own house), but if they move out, for whatever reason and take their furniture out -even before the end of their tenancy- they are entitled to the exemption as the person currently responsible -just as I can get an exemption on my own home if I were to temporarily move elsewhere and substantially empty the place. They are more concerned with the inhabitation/furnishment under the current liable person.

          I have heard of some Councils only allowing one period of exemption in any financial year, luckily North East Lincolnshire are allowing multiple further exemptions providing it's been rented for a minimum of two months (that's still up on the old six week minimum). As they never bother to send officers out to check a tenant has actually left and the property is genuinely empty, I can only think it'll be a matter of time before the 'customers' cotton on to the idea and save themselves a month's tax toward the end of their agreements. Unfortunately the local authority don't want to work with landlords or agents (the few they do actually work with are well-known cowboys) and see us as the bad guys.

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          • #6
            @Berlingirl - I don't think a Court would allow such a clause as a genuine tenant that has paid up to the end of their agreement but moved their belongings out 30 days early would accordingly be allowed the exemption. As the responsible individual, they are also the entitled individual. I'd lean towards that falling under unfair terms of contract.

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            • #7
              In view of this, I guess it will be in our interests as landlords not to insist on being paid rent for all the time we are legally entitled to. Far better to let the tenant go mid-month, (and even refund some rent as an incentive for this) than to leave the place pointlessly empty.

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              • #8
                singlelayer - yes upon reflection I think you're right. I don't think my T will be able to claim after all because the property must be unoccupied and empty of furniture. This particular house isn't as it has a bed, wardrobe and sideboard in it. It also has a washer and fridge. All of which are mine.

                Does anyone know if a washer and fridge count as furniture?

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Berlingogirl View Post

                  Does anyone know if a washer and fridge count as furniture?
                  I believe it's only the beds.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Thanks JKO, that's what I thought. I've a feeling settees etc count too, or any furniture.

                    So the solution is to leave at one piece of furniture in the house. It might be a good idea to furnish the smallest bedroom only, as, for my Ts, usually, this is for the baby who is in a cot at the moment and will soon need a bed, so putting one in can be seen as an advantage to the T.

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                    • #11
                      At least where I'm based, the Council take the tenants' word as gospel and never bother to check one way or the other! Over at my own home, I'm under North Lincolnshire (as opposed to North East) and when I recently emptied my property and moved in with parents whilst I carry out a full renovation (all prior to the changes in April), they tried telling me that I could only have 30 days not the old six month exemption because the measure had, "been announced and will be coming in soon." -All well and good, I said, but they're not in yet. It's a constant battle with the local authority.

                      Whilst I'm on a rant, they've also been unlawfully applying land charges to empty properties that have had fly-tipped waste removed by their 'Community Pride' team without even so much as an attempt to contact either us as owners or agents or the landlord direct. They seem to think they are in charge and can go about business as they please!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Thought I'd follow this topic up with a new development and a request for advice.

                        The Council have today called me to cross reference when a tenant left. The tenant said they moved mid-April; I corrected them they moved May (we talking when they moved, nothing to do with when the official tenancy/liability for the property expires). The Council say that they have a new agreement for a new house from the tenant beginning mid-April so by his reasoning that was proof enough that they were no longer living in our property and were living in the new place. I told him that was not the case as I had seen their furniture in our property well into May and I asked if the Council had sent one of their officers to check that they'd gone mid-April as the tenants were claiming. The Council worker then explained they only have one officer so it would be impossible to check and that they just have to take the tenants word for it. Now my word was contradicting theirs, I enquired as to what happens next. He said the onus was on me to prove they were still living and/or had our place still furnished after the claimed moving date of mid-April. When asked what they would suggest as suitable evidence, he recommended a photograph -how on earth can I take a photograph of something after the fact? Short of taking photographs of all 350 of my tenants everyday on the off-chance that one tells the Council an untruth, this is impossible.

                        My question is this:

                        Do the Council have an obligation to check a property has been vacated and is there policy to back this up? Also, is it for me to prove they're still living in a property (bearing in mind locally they are over a month behind on paperwork so couldn't possibly go in the immediate aftermath of the tenant lying about the date on which they left)?

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          With 350 tenants surely you have staff to handle such things & legal advisers to assist you with this matter & t' Council??

                          A tenant can have as many tenancies as he likes (eg 37... - similar to your having 350 tenants..), all legal valid tenancies - but may only have one main residence: If he has more homes he would be liable to tax under the usual 2nd home rules (eg one's private holiday home..). If the council want an example just ask them to examine their own rules for paying HB/LHA on 2 properties during a changeover period where notice periods haven't expired...

                          I have no doubt any council have no obligation to check as you ask.

                          Cheers!!
                          I am legally unqualified: If you need to rely on advice check it with a suitable authority - eg a solicitor specialising in landlord/tenant law...

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Show them evidence that the tenancy was continuing.

                            Even if they don't live at the property, as long as they are the tenant they are 'the owner' for council tax purpose and thus liable.

                            Quote them s.6(5) of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 (section which defines list of liabilities):
                            (5)In this Part, unless the context otherwise requires—
                            “owner”, in relation to any dwelling, means the person as regards whom the following conditions are fulfilled—
                            (a)he has a material interest in the whole or any part of the dwelling; and
                            (b)at least part of the dwelling or, as the case may be, of the part concerned is not subject to a material interest inferior to his interest;

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              'theartfuldodger' I sense sarcasm.

                              I have over 350 tenants, around 100 of my own and the remainder managed properties. Well over 25 years experience, only 3 office staff (no legal advisers/endless numbers of office workers) and have had no problems -just thought I'd get others input on this particular matter. I'm fully confident I will resolve this problem, will challenge the Council if I choose (I often lead the way locally when it comes to new issues that need resolving) and I have an above 95% success rate in Court. Unbelievable, perhaps, but I am one of many 100+ property landlords in this area of the country that operate in a similar way. Not everything necessarily runs the same as where you are. Sometimes it feels like I am the only one putting up a fight against our local authority, who, incidentally, are the UK's worst performing Council so it's often an uphill battle. Perhaps that's the reason to my success; persistence?

                              Comment

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