Owners 'are in for a shock': With the replacement for the discredited poll tax due next April, at least a million appeals against the new banded valuations are predicted

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The Independent Online
A LOT of people are going to be rigid with shock when they get their valuations, Andrew Dixon reckons. Mr Dixon should know. He and a colleague have just valued 30,000 homes in Brighton and Hove for the new council tax, writes Jason Bennetto.

His firm of chartered surveyors, Enever and Co, won four contracts at the beginning of this year to do the valuations in East Sussex. The two men took about 24 days each - averaging more than 600 homes a day, over a four-month period - to value the 30,000 properties.

They had to calculate what the value of the home would have been on 1 April 1991. 'Some houses took 10 seconds; others up to five minutes,' Mr Dixon said. 'Sometimes you could do a whole street in under a minute because they were all identical.' The surveyors were not allowed to go inside homes or on to private land to look at the backs of houses for extensions.

There have been reports of some surveyors, not at Enever and Co, not bothering to get out of the car for the valuations, but the Valuation Office does make random sample checks on properties to ensure the surveyors' work is accurate.

Most of Mr Dixon's work was done in Hove, a Conservative stronghold with a mixture of Thirties terraces, semi-detached suburbia, and impressive Edwardian detached homes. The area has been hit hard by the recession. To assist them, the surveyors are given a 'valuation precis' with details of every house, collated during the old rates system. However, some of the information is up to 15 years old.

'Key property' sheets, giving examples of homes in the area sold in April 1991, which the surveyors must use as the basis of their valuations, are also provided.

No consideration is given to the condition of the homes: they are all assumed to be in a 'reasonable condition'. 'You could come across a wreck that was unsellable, and we would value it the same as a house next door that was in perfect condition,' Mr Dixon explained.

There are also no concessions for flats with short leases. All leaseholds are valued on the assumption that they have a 99-year lease. Home-owners will lose their appeal if the surveyor has followed government guidelines on leases and condition, irrespective of whether the home has been overvalued.

Further problems are expected with owners of homes built since April 1991, who will find that the value of their property has been artificially backdated to a value higher than its current worth.

Surveyors doing the valuations have been paid as little as 20p a home, but the average was pounds 2.

Many home-owners will be confused and angry about their valuations, because property prices have slumped since 1 April 1991. Houses in Hove and Brighton dropped by up to 30 per cent.

Mr Dixon believes councils will need to provide a lot of 'careful explanations' to disgruntled owners when the valuations are announced. 'A lot of people are going to get a shock because their home will be valued at a much higher amount than it is now worth,' he said. 'I think we have got at least 90 per cent of the valuations right, but you could well end up with 50 per cent of people wanting to appeal.'

(Photograph omitted)