Graduate outraged after being handed tax bill for unoccupied student digs

(From left) Former University of East Anglia housemates Hattie Powell, Emily MacDonald, Mavis (Meiyao) Young pictured in 2019

(From left) Former University of East Anglia housemates Hattie Powell, Emily MacDonald, Mavis (Meiyao) Young pictured in 2019 - Credit: Hattie Powell

A University of East Anglia graduate has been left astounded after being smacked with a hefty bill for an unoccupied house nearly two years after ending her studies.

Hattie Powell, 23, moved to Norwich in 2017 for her three-year biological sciences degree at the UEA.

But she was shocked to get a £259 bill from Norwich City Council nearly two years after she left her third year house in Helena Road, Norwich.

UEA campus in Norwich. Picture: Denise Bradley

UEA campus in Norwich. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2019

She and her two former flatmates were sent an email from the council demanding the money for council tax between June 13 and July 31, 2020.

A council spokeswoman confirmed that when the trio's teaching ended on June 12 and they ceased to be students they were no longer exempt from council tax.

However this was unbeknown to the graduates at the time.

Miss Powell, who lives in London and works as a junior associate for a PR firm, said: "It feels like they have caught us in a legal net.

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"If it was a normal year and I had even spent a few months in Norwich I would have thought fair enough but because 2020 was an exceptional year it is incredible the council is asking students to pay."

Because of the Covid pandemic Miss Powell left her house on March 10, 2020, to return to her West Sussex family home because she felt "spooked" by the pandemic but carried on paying rent.

UEA students were later told to return to their homes for remote learning.

Miss Powell came back to Norwich for just one day in June that year to pick up her belongings. 

Hattie Powell, who went onto study at Imperial College London in September 2020 for a master's degree

Hattie Powell, who went onto study at Imperial College London in September 2020 for a master's degree after finishing a degree at the University of East Anglia - Credit: Hattie Powell

She added: "I can't believe more isn't done to let students know about this - especially after all the confusion of the pandemic."

The council spokeswoman said the authority had previously contacted Miss Powell about the tax bill adding: "Everyone has a legal duty to pay council tax and the council has a duty to pursue collection of this money.

"It’s important if someone ends their tenancy, they move out, or their circumstances change and they think they do not owe this debt, they inform us and do not just withhold payment, and ignore the reminders we send.”

The UEA was approached for comment.