You may have heard whispers recently about people successfully challenging their council tax band. Over 11,000 households won their cases in the 2020-21 tax year, putting themselves into a lower council tax band and securing lower ongoing monthly bills. Many even received backdated lump sums, so it’s little wonder word has begun to spread.
However, before you challenge your council tax band, you’ll have to do some research. Don’t worry, we’ll cover everything you need to do in a bit, as we walk you through the step-by-step stages of making a claim for a council tax reduction and possible refund.
Before we get to that, though, let’s take a look at why your property might be in the wrong council tax band.
Are you in the wrong council tax band?
Council tax was introduced way back in 1993, but the calculations for which council tax band a particular property falls into was made a couple of years prior to that in 1991.
Naturally, valuing every single home in the UK is a monumental task, and the government of the day quickly realised that the job was beyond the scope of civil servants. So, outside assistance was brought in.
Despite the extra help, however, obtaining detailed valuations for every single property across the country was still a mammoth undertaking, and it became obvious they were going to fall short. The result? So-called ‘second-gear valuations’ were submitted, and many of these substandard valuations remain in place today.
The name, ‘second-gear valuation’ came about because they were done on the fly in rolling cars that never stopped to inspect individual homes, but rather took a view of a street as a whole. Little wonder, then, that there are discrepancies between neighbouring properties and that so many households are now successfully challenging their current council tax banding.
How much are people claiming for being in the wrong council tax band?
Obviously, the amount you’ll save month on month will depend on what band you are currently in and which one your property gets moved to.
The most important thing to point out in this section is that successfully challenging an incorrect council tax band can result in backdated repayments as well. These go all the way back to the tax’s inception date, 1993, so it’s easy to see how this can mount up to hit four figures or more.
With all that said, you shouldn’t challenge your council tax band unless you are fairly certain you have a case. Doing this on a whim can come back to bite you, as it can just as easily result in an increase in your council tax band for you and your neighbours.
Guess who won’t win the street’s popularity contest if that were to happen!
How to challenge your council tax band
Making a challenge to lower your council tax band starts with a little bit of groundwork to find out if you really do have the right to make a claim. Here’s your step-by-step process:
Step one: Check surrounding properties
Step one is arguably the most important: Check out your neighbour’s council tax bands.
If you are on friendly terms with your neighbours, you can ask them directly. If not, or if you simply don’t fancy getting into money talks with them, you can find out what band they are in by checking the Valuation Office Agency’s (VOA) public records. (NOTE: This applies to England. For those in Scotland, see the Scottish Assessors Association (SAA) instead.)
Naturally, you’re looking for properties roughly the same size as yours, preferably with a similar valuation as well. Should you find that your neighbours are all in a lower band, you may have a solid case to mount a challenge.
However, it’s also worth bearing in mind that their banding may be wrong. In which case, their council tax band may be adjusted upwards, while yours will remain the same. This is why it is vital to carry out step two before you challenge your council tax band.
Step two: Get a 1991 valuation
In order to compare with the 1991 council tax bands, you’re going to need to find out what the property was worth back then. Thanks to the Internet, this is as easy as making a few Google searches.
First off, find out what the most recent valuation of your home is. You can do this by going to any of the large property portals and looking at their historic sales price pages. Simply enter your postcode and you’ll be provided with the price and the date on which the property was sold. Note both of these down.
Next, head over to a good house price calculator, such as this one from Nationwide, and enter your details to get a rough idea of what your home was worth back in 1991.
Step three: Compare your property’s ‘91 value against initial council tax bands
Armed with your ballpark ‘91 valuation, you can now check to see where your property sits in the council tax band chart for 1991 property values. This can be found on this gov.uk page, How domestic properties are assessed for Council Tax bands.
If you have a positive result from both your checks on neighbouring properties and the comparison of your 1991 valuation against the council banding for that year, you may well have a case. However, any other combination of the two checks is likely not worth pursuing.
So, to reiterate, if you haven’t received two positives, it probably isn’t wise to take it any further.
Even if both the neighbour and valuation checks look like you might be paying more than you should, you need to take other things into consideration before you challenge - especially things like high ROI home improvements, such as extensions and conversions, as this will obviously impact your current property’s value.
This, in turn, will have an impact on what your property would have been deemed to be worth in 1991, so tread carefully.
Step four: Challenge your council tax band if you think it may be incorrect
If you strongly believe that your property is in the wrong council tax band, the next thing to do is make a challenge.
For properties in England, you can get guidance on how to challenge your council tax band via gov.uk. You will need to supply supporting evidence to the VOA and they will review your challenge accordingly.
Guidance for Scots in the same boat can be found at mygov.scot.
Are there any reasons why you may not be able to challenge an incorrect council tax band?
According to gov.uk, the VOA will review your band if you’re challenging it for any of the following reasons:
- your property has changed - for example, it’s been demolished, split into multiple properties or merged into one
- your property’s use has changed - for example, part of your property is now used for business
- your local area has changed - for example, a new supermarket has been built
You will also be eligible for a review if you have been paying council tax on the property in question for less than six months. You can still ask for a review if your reasons differ from those above or if you have been paying council tax for longer than six months, but your supporting evidence will need to be far more robust for them to do so.
What happens next?
After submitting your council tax band challenge, you’ll have one of three outcomes: You do not meet the criteria for a challenge, challenge rejection, or a successful challenge.
For those told they are unable to challenge, you may still be able to get your council tax band reviewed. Again, you will need to speak with the VOA, and the best course of action is to get them on the phone, if you can. Their number is 03000 501 501 for homes in England.
Similarly, if your challenge gets rejected, you can appeal, but you need to do so within three months of receiving notice of rejection. You must, however, meet the qualifying circumstances outlined in the section above.
Successful challenges will, of course, result in a lowering of your council tax band and your monthly bill. You will also be eligible for a rebate backdated to 1993 or the date you moved into the property, should that be later. Congratulations!
That’s it for another week. Good luck if you decide you mount a challenge to have your council tax rebanded, just be sure to have sufficient evidence before you make a claim.
If you are thinking of moving in or around the capital, Petty Son and Prestwich can help make your move as smooth as possible. With over 100 years in the property market behind us, there are few agents with greater expertise and knowledge.
So, whether you’re buying or selling, renting or letting, give our friendly team a call to find out why Petty’s have been the first choice for home movers since 1908.