Why is our tiny bungalow’s council tax the same as a neighbour’s house?

When pensioners Joan and Alex Babb discovered their annual council tax bill was the same as their neighbour’s they were surprised.

Their Gloucestershire home is a one-bedroom bungalow, while neighbours on the other side of the road live in three-bedroom semi-detached houses with garages.

All are charged £1,232, but when Joan, 73, challenged her Band B bill she was met with a response that highlights the problems of many homeowners around the country who feel they are paying the wrong amount.

The council said that despite the obvious difference in properties the bill stood. The couple’s challenge was denied on the basis that the banding was correct at the time it was set at the beginning of the 1990s.

Pensioners Joan and Alex Babb  were surprised that their bungalow's council tax band was the same as their neighbours' three-bed two-storey houses

Pensioners Joan and Alex Babb  were surprised that their bungalow's council tax band was the same as their neighbours' three-bed two-storey houses

Pensioners Joan and Alex Babb  were surprised that their bungalow’s council tax band was the same as their neighbours’ three-bed two-storey houses

The couple were annoyed that their challenge had been turned down and contacted the Valuation Office Agency, but again hit a brick wall.

Mrs Babb told MailOnline Property: ‘Whatever the value was at that exact point, it would be very close to the base of band B, though I strongly suspect, below it.

‘However, these aren’t just average houses – they are tiny homes for last-time buyers. 

‘They are for those who have downsized to the max for a reason, such as to make the most of their retirement funds, with most of them occupied by very elderly single people with little income.’

She continued: ‘Far from being ‘fair’, as suggested, it just cannot be equitable that we have to pay the same council tax as families in spacious three-bed semis with garages.’ 

Jon Topping, head of policy and resources at Gloucester City Council, said: ‘Council tax bands are set by the Valuation Office Agency and councils are obliged to charge according to these bands.

‘Currently the VOA has set the band for properties located in their road at Band B. 

‘Taxpayers are able to challenge the banding on their property if they believe it to be incorrect and details of how to do this are available on the leaflet that accompanies the bill or can be found on the council’s website.’ 

A neighbour's semi-detached house with three bedrooms is in the same council tax band

A neighbour's semi-detached house with three bedrooms is in the same council tax band

A neighbour’s semi-detached house with three bedrooms is in the same council tax band

The failure of successive governments to do a full revaluation for council tax since its introduction means that many people think their property is charged the wrong amount. Conservative Party said in 2008 that it believed 400,000 homes were in the wrong bands.

A VOA spokesperson said: ‘As we’ve explained to the customer, sales evidence on the properties indicates that band B is correct, as the properties were sold in 1990 and 1991 for more than £40,000 which is within the Band B range.

‘As each Council Tax band includes a range of values, a range of different properties can fall within the same band.

‘If a taxpayer has concerns about their Council Tax band, they can contact the VOA at any time to explain why they think it might be wrong.’

Council tax bands are based on what your house was worth in 1991, as that's when and how the council tax bands were defined

Council tax bands are based on what your house was worth in 1991, as that's when and how the council tax bands were defined

Council tax bands are based on what your house was worth in 1991, as that’s when and how the council tax bands were defined

How to challenge your council tax

It is possible to challenge a council tax band, but homeowners can often find it is very difficult to secure a change. 

A list of the type of evidence required to challenging a banding is available by clicking here.

The list includes sending addresses of up to five similar properties in a lower council tax band, which need to be a similar age, style and design, size and type, along with evidence from property prices.

Technically, you cannot just ask for your band to be lowered – only for it to be reassessed. This means your band could be moved up, as well as down.

Mrs Babb called on the VOA to ‘come and take a look for themselves as the evidence is blindingly obvious’.

She added: ‘Suggesting that these pensioners visit an online site to prove otherwise unfortunately just shows how out of touch with reality this authority is, with the very customers who have no choice but to continue to pay their wages.’ 

Check your council band by clicking here 

 

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