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How to check your council tax banding - Part 3

Posted 24 September 2015 by Shelley Bowers

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Dealing with council tax arrears? Find out what you need to say to the council and how you can pay it back.

In the third and final part of this blog on how to check your council tax band, we’ll cover what you can do if you think your banding is wrong. 

What happens when I challenge my council tax band?

So now you’re ready to make your council tax banding challenge formal. Be prepared for a wait as it can be a lengthy process, but on the up-side it doesn’t cost you a penny, and the whole thing is explained in detail on the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) website. In brief, this is how it goes:

1. First, you need to contact your local VOA and send your query to the listing officer (LO). They will look at your case and decide if it can be taken further, if so, you’ll be sent a proposal form to fill in. They’ll also inform you of any time limits that apply to your application. Once completed, send your form by recorded delivery, this way you can be sure that it gets there, and you know the exact date it was received and by whom. This is important because the LO is obliged to contact you with a decision on your proposal within four months of receiving your form. 

2. If you disagree with the decision made by the LO, you can take it further with a Valuation Tribunal (VT).  However, you must do this within 3 months of receiving the decision letter from the LO. Contact the tribunal and ask them to send you a form to fill in, or you can fill one in online here. You’ll receive an acknowledgment from the VT when they receive your request to appeal. 

3. Next, you’ll be sent a Notice of Hearing, which usually gives you between 4-6 weeks’ notice before the hearing where they’ll make a decision about your case. Just remember that the minimum amount of time they have to give as notice is only two weeks, so you may have to get ready for it pretty sharpish. You can ask for the date to be changed or postponed, but you need to do this at least 3 days before the hearing due date and the VO try not to do this as the process is already quite lengthy. 

4. Then, two weeks before the hearing, you’ll be contacted to find out if you’ll be attending the hearing or not. If you are, you should prepare your evidence. You will be able to present verbal and written evidence as well as anything else you can take along that you think might help your case, such as letters, photos or plans, or even a person who can act as witness for you.     

Of course, sitting in front of a panel of strangers, presenting evidence to support your case may not be your cup of tea. So, if you don’t fancy it, you don’t have to attend – you can request it to be heard in your absence, with only your submission of evidence read out. This must be done at least two weeks before your hearing date. You can find more details on this here

There is also the possibility of having a decision without a hearing, if all parties agree – more on that here.

If you decide to attend the hearing you will be expected to present your evidence, as will the other side, so you need to be pretty confident about talking in front of people. Otherwise, you may want to take some along who can speak on your behalf. Once the evidence has been presented both sides will have the opportunity to ask questions as will the tribunal panel.

The panel will then retire to discuss your case. You may get a decision that day, but it usually isn’t in full and won’t detail why they came to their decision. That will be revealed to you in the formal letter detailing the outcome of the tribunal that you’ll receive some time later.

If you are still unhappy with the decision you’ve been given you can contact the VO to complain about it. If they don’t provide you with a response you are happy with, you can then appeal to the High Court. But this only applies if you think the law has been incorrectly interpreted and the tribunal panel acted outside of their authority. You must also do this within 4 weeks of receiving your decision letter from the tribunal. You should also keep in mind that there may be costs for taking your case to the High Court. We would always advise that you seek legal advice before pursuing this any further, just to be sure you know what you’re getting yourself into and what the potential costs might be.  

 

And there you have it – your complete guide to challenging your council tax banding.

by Shelley Bowers

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