Outraged by your bill? Think before you jump on the council tax bandwagon
A TV show alleged recently that many households overpay. But mounting a challenge is a perilous option
Sunday 04 February 2007
A government website crashed last week. Nothing unusual about that, you might think, but the site belonged to the Valuation Office Agency (VOA), the department responsible for the property values that determine our council tax bills. And the reason for the crash was heavy consumer traffic.
Behind all this was the ITV show Tonight with Trevor McDonald, which suggested that thousands of UK homes had been wrongly "banded" - and owners could be due a refund.
In 1993, the programme alleged, in the run-up to the introduction of council tax, there were a number of "drive-by", "kerbside" or "second gear" valuations when agents contracted by the VOA simply drove slowly up and down streets, giving rough values to whole areas at a time - and getting many wrong. An incorrect valuation, over a long period, could mean those homeowners have paid far too much tax.
The right to appeal against council tax bands - the charge made according to the size of the property and its location - is generally limited to the six months after a change of occupancy. But the VOA says it will normally review a band if requested to do so because it has a legal obligation to ensure the lists are accurate. A spokesman adds, though, that the body is satisfied the original bandings were competently calculated.
"When council tax lists were being prepared for introduction on 1 April 1993, 60 per cent of properties were banded by contractors from the private sector and 40 per cent by the VOA.
"The contractors worked under tight VOA supervision, were supplied with details of the properties concerned, and were selected on the basis of their local knowledge. They were required to put properties into one of eight council tax bands, not to carry out detailed valuations."
In the 14 years since, challenges to the bands have amounted to no more than 7 per cent of Britain's 21.1 million homes, VOA figures show.
"Between 1 April 1993 and 31 March 2006, formal challenges that resulted in a reduction (including those determined by tribunal) have been made on 4.3 per cent of total dwellings. Most of these were in the initial years, when the council tax list was first introduced."
The spokesman refuted the show's suggestion that hundreds of thousands of householders could be in line for a big refund.
"We believe the numbers extrapolated are entirely unjustified, though we accept there may be some pockets where we will need to take action."
Next month, the Lyons review commissioned by the Government will report back on whether the banding system should be updated. But in the meantime, should you take any action?
The first point to make is that while you might benefit, you can be rebanded up as well as down - so you could end up paying more.
Bandings are set by the Listing Officer at the VOA, and there are a number of reasons why a particular property's value might need to be updated - either up or down. These include the conversion of a home into flats; physical changes, such as a large extension; and part-demolition (of a conservatory, say).
Significant home improvements are the most likely explanation for why rows of houses that appear similar - the cause of many challenges - have one or two in different bands.
But whether your property was wrongly assessed in the first place is a different matter, and there are several factors to consider if you think you might have a case. First, which band your home is in depends on its value on 1 April 1991 - the official baseline date specified by the Government. General price movements in the housing market since then are not, therefore, a reason for changing your council tax banding.
Second, the bands are so wide that only someone whose home is on the cusp of two bands in 1991 prices is potentially affected.
The way the bands work means that those with the most valuable homes, and accordingly the biggest council tax bills, are least likely to discover that a revaluation will place them in a lower band. In the worst instance, if you are mistaken about the comparability of your house and your neighbours', and yours has superior features such as an extension, you could find yourself allocated to a higher bracket.
Your home may already have been checked for accuracy. After council tax was introduced on 1 April 1993, householders were given until 30 November 1993 to apply for a rebanding - so it is worth seeing if this was done.
If you live in a home built since 1991, you are even less likely to succeed with an appeal. New homes are valued as if they had been on the market in 1991.
elephant appealThe first 23 lots in our charity auction have now gone. But there are 22 more still up for grabs
The Silicon Valley awards which treat scientists like rockstars
comedy'Fresh Meat' star sees off stiff competition from Alan Carr, David Mitchell, Graham Norton, Lee Mack and Sarah Millican to win top prize
- 1 Italian court annuls prison sentence for elderly paedophile after 11-year-old victim tells investigators in Catanzaro that she loves him
- 2 Australia incest case: Deformed children found in remote farming community after generations of inbreeding
- 3 Woman who miscarried in private prison 'made to clean up after herself,' court told
- 4 Physicists discover 'clearest evidence yet' that the Universe is a hologram
- 5 Fox News presenter tells viewers it is a 'fact' that both Jesus and Santa Claus are white
- < Previous
- Next >
iJobs Money & Business
£500 - £525 per day: Harrington Starr: Business Intelligence Consultant/Develo...
£40000 - £50000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: A leading prov...
attractive: Citifocus: Leading Asset Management house, wish to identify a temp...
£200 - £240 per day: Harrington Starr: Client Data Management - City - Brokera...
Day In a Page
A six-bedroom farm house with separate, detached cottages and 371 acres of land
A two-bedroom cottage with parquet floors, chunky beams and an open fireplace
A Grade II-listed home with six bedrooms, secluded landscaped gardens and views across Hadley Green
A Grade II-listed mansion with two apartments and a cottage, near Gretna Green
A three-bedroom Grade II-listed mews house with vaulted ceilings and roof garden
A spacious Grade II-listed family home with annexe and equestrian facilities among four acres of land in Itchingfield
A four-bedroom home with exposed brick walls and open fires in the picturesque village of Northill
A Grade II-listed property with five bedrooms and unique tower, overlooking Hastings Old Town
A charming five-bedroom detached family home, set within half an acre in Kew
A two-bedroom maisonette set on the top two floors of a period building, close to Kentish Town Tube.
Take advantage of the extra space provided by former stables and outbuildings at this five-bedroom farmhouse.
This three-bedroom Victorian terrace is near to Queen’s Road Peckham station, Nunhead station.
A five-bedroom modern house with terrace, swimming pool, Zen treehouse and large carp pond
An unexpected gem with four bedrooms, remarkable vaulted reception and a galleried study area
A five-bedroom house in one of Lymington's most sought after tree lined avenues, moments from the marinas and sailing clubs
A grand early 19th century B&B close to the historic harbour, with four en suite bedrooms
A four-bedroom, 17th century home with walled gardens, a landscaped terrace, cellar and open fires
A six-bedroom house with five bathrooms and four reception rooms spread over 4,000sq ft of luxury living space
A stunning three double-bedroom apartment with two decked terraces in the exclusive gated community, Bromyard House
A 10-bedroom period, family home amid beautiful surroundings in the centre of the Wentworth Estate in Longcross village
A stylish three-bedroom apartment with two bathrooms and private landscaped garden, moments from Fitzroy Square
A Grade II-listed Elizabethan barn with landscaped gardens, exposed elm beams and four bedrooms, all with lovely views
A six-bedroom family home, dating back to 1280 with four reception rooms, barn, swimming pool and tennis courts in Harwell
A spacious two-bedroom flat, refurbished to a very high standard with private landscaped garden, close to Kentish Town station
An exceptional two-bedroom apartment with balcony and underground parking in the centre of Richmond
A one-bedroom, luxury, duplex apartment in the grand landmark building, Imperial Hall
Run a fabulous boutique shop, live above it in a one-bedroom flat and let a second one-bedroom flat that comes part and parcel
A Grade-II listed, thatched cottage in Hundleby village, with five bedrooms, a coach house and three and a half acres
A spacious two-bedroom flat in the heart of Hoxton Square with wooden floors and roof terrace
A five-bedroom family home with stunning pool and gym complex set among two acres of land
A six-bedroom period house with heated swimming pool and a separate two-bedroom annexe cottage in Townlake, £795,000
A spacious and contemporary two-bedroom flat arranged over three floors, with garden patio close to St George Square, £600,000
A one-bedroom flat in a beautiful Regency building opposite the beach in Kemp Town, £190,000
A two-bedroom flat with London skyline views close to Surrey Quays. £395,000.
A seven-storey tower with three bedrooms and a stunning roof terrace. Guide price: £850,000.
A 16-bedroom country pile with nine reception rooms, four self-contained flats and a 13th century Peel Tower. £850,000.
A classic six-bedroom Victorian Manse house 10 miles from Edinburgh. £495,000.
John Lennon's childhood home in Liverpool to be sold at auction. Guide price: £150,000-£250,000.
A six-bedroom detached period property with secluded gardens, ample parking and a double garage in Rye, £675,000.
A large split-level property with three double-bedrooms and roof terrace, close to Crouch End Broadway, £625,000.