Hundreds net Council Tax boost

Hundreds of people have seen their Council Tax slashed after successfully arguing their homes were placed in the wrong band - including a man who helped him and 11 of his neighbours save hundreds of pounds.

Dan Grimmer

Hundreds of people have seen their Council Tax slashed after successfully arguing their homes were placed in the wrong band - including a man who helped him and 11 of his neighbours save hundreds of pounds.

More than 800 households in Norfolk have saved money on their Council Tax bills by getting their homes switched to lower council tax bands.

This includes a former landlord, who has told how his bid to get his home rebanded ensured 11 of his neighbours were also handed lower bills.

Today, people were encouraged to do what they can to check out whether their homes were liable for cheaper bills in the hope that hundreds more people could be given a credit-crunch busting boost.

Derek Nice, 55, who helped him and his fellow Wilkins Court, in Larkman, residents save money on their Council Tax bills, said: “One lady said I had done her proud and saved her between £500 and £800 and she would buy me a pint, but that's not why I did it. It just seemed unfair.

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“I would say to anyone who thinks they have got a case to go for it. I have sat in my little garden behind my bungalow here wondering how they ever had us down as Band B when every other home on the Larkman seems to be Band A.

“They made mistakes when they set the bands, and if it happened to me, then I'm sure it has happened to other people.”

Council tax bands were set in 1991, based on the value of properties at that time, replacing the hugely unpopular poll tax. But the need for a rapid replacement for poll tax meant in some cases properties were valued on an “ad hoc” basis by people simply driving past the properties.

In recent months people have realised the potential benefit in checking whether their home is placed in the correct band.

Nationally, 97,563 properties in England and Wales have been rebanded, with 69,695 of those downgraded, and it is estimated more than a million properties across the country could be in the wrong band.

In the past 12 months, 1,381 people from Norfolk have applied to the Valuation Office Agency to ask for their homes to be rebanded, and in 827 cases those people are now paying less in council tax after experts deemed their property should have been in a lower band.

Mr Nice, 55, said: “My wife Julie saw money-saving expert Martin Lewis on television and he was banging on about how you could challenge your council tax banding.

“I followed his advice and typed in every bungalow in my street to see which band they were in. It came up that one of the bungalows just like ours had been rebanded in 1996.

“That one was band A while all the others, including ours, were band B. I couldn't see why it should have been the case for one of them and not for the others.

“I submitted a challenge to the Valuation Office Agency and I got a statutory letter back saying they were sorry but I was out of time.

“I couldn't understand how I could be out of time when I had only just found out about it so I picked up the phone and spoke to somebody saying I wanted them to look at it again or I would appeal.”

A week later Mr Nice got a letter saying his property had been rebanded - netting him just under £1,000 when it was confirmed he had been overpaying.

Families living in the other 10 bungalows were also sent letters saying they were being rebanded.

However, experts have warned people should only challenge if they are convinced they have a solid case. In 554 cases in Norfolk, householders ended up having to pay even higher council tax, because the properties were moved into a higher band.

A spokesman for website said: “Scandalously no government since 1991 has arranged any revaluation in England and Scotland, though the Welsh assembly has done it for all homes there.

“This leaves that flawed old valuation still dictating your band, which is why you could be paying more than your neighbour even though you live in exactly the same size house.”

When homes were last valued they were placed in eight bands from A to H. Bills were weighted so that homeowners in band H paid three times as much as those in band A.

The middle band D, which is often used when comparing tax bills across the country, is made up of homes originally valued at £68,001 to £88,000.

In many areas of the country it is impossible to buy a home for that amount, even in the current economic climate, and the government had planned to revalue all homes in England in 2005, following a similar revaluing in Wales the previous year.

But that revaluation was put on hold and opposition MPs have suggested when it does happen it will mean higher bills for most homeowners.

A spokeswoman for the Valuation Office Agency said: “For the period April 2007 to March 2008 the number of band decreases in the Norfolk area amounted to just 0.22pc of the total number of homes in council tax lists for the area whilst the number of increases amounted to just 0.14pc.

“Many of these band amendments can be as a result of significant physical changes to the property or locality as well as those where evidence would suggest they were incorrect.

“In this time the number of properties added to the lists for newly built dwellings or properties that have been split or merged, such as flats, amounted to 2pc.”

Have you saved cash by getting your home rebanded - or did your effort lead to you having to pay more? Call Evening News reporter Dan Grimmer on 01603 772375 or email