A surveyor has helped recover more than £20,000 in overpaid council tax for a group of Rothbury residents after a years-long battle with valuers.
Graham Cadwallader, a local chartered surveyor who represented residents of the Whitton View estate, first became concerned over how new properties are assessed by the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) back in 2017.
When a new property is built, the VOA allocates a council-tax band, based on what its value would have been on April 1, 1991 (April 1, 2003 in Wales).
You are able to challenge your council-tax band if you think it’s wrong and, if you still disagree with the VOA’s decision, you can appeal to a valuation tribunal. However, you must appeal within six months of moving into the house.
When Mr Cadwallader’s own representations to the VOA failed to lead anywhere, he used this right to lodge an appeal in respect of a property in Whitton View which was sold second-hand in 2017.
The appeal property went to tribunal in April 2018, where there was a disagreement over the property’s floor area, which led to the case being adjourned to resolve this issue.
A chartered surveyor from the VOA visited the estate to measure the appeal property and agreed that Mr Cadwallader’s measurements were correct and that the VOA had miscalculated the floor area by 18 sq m.
At a second hearing in September last year, the tribunal agreed with Mr Cadwallader and ordered that the band be reduced from E to D.
He then submitted appeals for all of the identical houses in Whitton View and, in time, they were all changed to band D.
The change is back-dated to when the houses were built and the owners were refunded the difference in council tax between bands D and E for the time they have owned their property, which amounted to more than £20,000.
Previous owners will also have been repaid their overpayment for the duration of their ownership.
Mr Cadwallader said: “It is very rewarding to secure the back-payment for my neighbours. However, it is unfortunate that Northumberland County Council has to pay the back payment when the mistake was made by the VOA.”
In total, 16 houses in Whitton View have now been re-banded, which raises a question as to whether the entire estate may be in the wrong band; Mr Cadwallader is looking into this and will decide what action to take after he has contacted the other owners.
A Northumberland County Council spokesman said: “Banding of properties is the responsibility of the Valuation Office Agency and reductions in bandings can go back as far as 1993 when council tax was introduced.
“This scenario is quite common and on average we receive two lists of amendments each week from the VOA with banding changes – increases, decreases and deletions.
“At Whitton View, several band reductions from E to D have been received recently and processed. Refunds have been issued where appropriate and where bank details are held payments are made directly to the bank account. For all other cases, a cheque would be issued.”
Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service