31 March 2000

New council tax rules criticised

CHANGES to council tax rules which means charges will be made for uninhabitable properties from tomorrow (Apr 1) have been criticised by the Country Landowners Association.

"Given the plight of farming landowners at the present time it seems totally inappropriate that the government should impose this charge," says Bruce Monnington, chief legal adviser at the CLA.

Even allowing for a 50% discount normally available for vacant dwellings, the cost will be beyond the means of many cash-starved farmers, he adds.

The new ruling leaves landowners two options – either they can invest thousands of £s to renovate properties and hope they can find a tenant, or they can demolish or reclassify them, he explains.

The change in legislation was introduced to increase the availability of housing in towns and cities, says Mr Monnington. "While it may be justifiable in urban areas, this change seems to be totally unfair in respect of rural areas."

Meanwhile, the 2000 rating revaluation also comes into effect tomorrow. Many more farmers will receive new or higher bills for buildings recently converted to business use, says Robin Eyles of midlands-based chartered surveyors Fisher Hoggarth.

But there is plenty of scope to challenge the revised rates bills, he adds. "Farm diversifications and added-value enterprises are often unique to their area and there is little comparable evidence to justify the rateable values. There may also be circumstances when certain enterprises fall within the agricultural exemption."

Appeals must be lodged by Sept 30, 2000. Fisher Hoggarth offers "no saving, no charge" advice, says Mr Eyles. Further information on 01858 410200. &#42