QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION
THE ADMINISTRATIVE COURT
B e f o r e :
|THE QUEEN ON THE APPLICATION OF MR M WILLIAMS||(CLAIMANT)|
|HORSHAM DISTRICT COUNCIL||(DEFENDANT)|
Smith Bernal Wordwave Limited
190 Fleet Street London EC4A 2AG
Tel No: 020 7404 1400 Fax No: 020 7831 8838
(Official Shorthand Writers to the Court)
MR J EASTON appeared on behalf of the DEFENDANT
Crown Copyright ©
"(1) The person who is liable to pay council tax in respect of any chargeable dwelling and any day is the person who falls within the first paragraph of subsection (2) below to apply, taking paragraph (a) of that subsection first, paragraph (b) next, and so on.
(2) A person falls within this subsection in relation to any chargeable dwelling and any day if, on that day -
(a) he is a resident of the dwelling and has a freehold interest in the whole or any part of it..."
"In this part, unless the context otherwise requires"
-- and I omit certain definitions which are not relevant --
"resident" in relation to any dwelling means an individual who has attained the age of 18 years and has his sole or main residence in the dwelling."
"Mr Williams said that his wife and he had lived in the appeal dwelling since 1975, but that they had, from January 1993 to July 1997, resided in accommodation which was as The Oaks and which was provided by Hurstpierpoint College. He was employed there as a housemaster from January 1993 to August 1996 and occupied the school house as a pre-requisite of the post. The post college paid the council tax in full and treated the accommodation as part of his taxable remuneration. From September 1996 to July 1997 Mr and Mrs Williams continued to live in the same property, even though he was no longer a housemaster; but a charge was made for the accommodation including council tax. Whilst at Hurstpierpoint, the home in Henfield was left unoccupied, although he did return periodically to maintain the property and mow the lawn. He did not however stay there overnight.
On their return to Henfield, Mr Williams wrote to Horsham District Council requesting a 50% backdated rebate, during their residence in Hurstpierpoint since the appeal dwelling had not been occupied during their residence in Hurstpierpoint and the full council tax had been paid in respect of the college accommodation. In support of this contention, he quoted a memorandum dated 10 November, from the then bursar of the college which specified that a 50% council tax discount might be granted on houses owned elsewhere by members of the staff. He also referred to the notes accompanying Horsham's council tax demand which indicated that 'properties at which no one lives will receive a 50% discount.'"
"So far as Mr and Mrs Williams were concerned, they had always intended to return to the appeal dwelling, they enjoyed security of tenure there and their absence for a period of four and a half years was occasioned by Mr Williams' work commitments. In addition, some personal belongings were left at The Pump Cottage to enable them to return when they wished, they remained registered with the same doctor and dentist and they were included in the electoral rolls of both councils."
"There were, however, two reasons why the current case could be distinguished from the established law on this subject. Firstly, Mr Williams' wife accompanied him while he was residing in the college property, unlike the spouses of the taxpayers in the cases before the courts. Secondly, Mr Williams stated that at no time had he or his wife stayed overnight at the appeal dwelling.
In the opinion of the Tribunal neither of these factors could cause the balance of the scales to be tilted sufficiently in favour of the taxpayers in the current case, since the most important and persuasive criteria were the security of tenure in The Pump Cottage as compared with the college accommodation and the fact that there was an undoubted intention to return there when Mr Williams' employment came to an end. The Tribunal was not convinced that these additional circumstances would be likely to upset the now well-established corpus of the law.
Accordingly, it came to the firm conclusion that the sole or main residence of Mr and Mr Williams during the period from January 1993 to July 1997 was the appeal dwelling. The appeal, therefore, must be dismissed."
"If the case contains anything ex facie which is bad law and which bears upon the determination it is in obviously erroneous in point of law... any such misconception appearing ex facie, it may be that the facts found are such that no person acting judicially and properly instructed as to the relevant law could have come to the determination under appeal. In those circumstances too the court must intervene."
(2) even if such a ship could constitute a residence, the respondent's sole or main residence was the house, because that was where his home was, where he had his settled and usual abode, which he left only when the exigencies of his occupation compelled him to go to the sea, for temporary or occasional absences of long or short duration;
(3) the Valuation and Community Charge Tribunal, erred in confirming its attention exclusively, or almost exclusively, to the question of time because there were other factors which the tribunal could have taken into account, including, I consider that (a) the fact that the respondent regarded the house as his home, that it was there his wife (and presumably any children they might have) lived, that he spent his time there when not on the ship, and that he had an interest in and security of tenure at the house,
(b) that he lived on the ship only because of and in connection with his work, and that he had no security of tenure (beyond that which his contract of employment gave him) on any accommodation which he occupied on the ship. The paucity of evidence did not mean that there were not other factors which the tribunal, drawing reasonable and proper inferences from what was before it, could take into account. I instance the following matters:
(a) the fact that Mr Anderton regarded the house as his home; that it was here his wife (and presumably any children they might have) lived; that he spent his time there when not on the ship; and that he has an interest in and security of tenure at the house; (b) that he lived on the ship only because of and in connection with his work; and that he has no security of tenure (beyond that which his contract of employment gives him) on any accommodation which he occupies on the ship."
"In reaching a decision the Tribunal decided that most weight must be attached to the service record of Mr Anderton, which quite clearly illustrated that for 75% of his time he was away from 2 Vale Grove aboard the Atlantic Conveyor. Having regard to this evidence the tribunal were firmly of the opinion that his main residence was the Atlantic Conveyor and not 2 Vale Grove, Silsden."
"Here the case concerns two houses on dry land, but, apart from that distinction, there are a number of common factors. The most important of those are: that Mr Ward has security of tenure in his home in Hull, which he clearly does not have in his tied accommodation in Saudi Arabia; that the only home that he owns is the one in Hull; that he lives in the accommodation in Saudi Arabia, when he does, only because he works there; and that as in the Bradford Metropolitan City Council case, he spends longer away from his matrimonial home than he does in it."
In my judgment, the tribunal's reliance on the factor of security of tenure at the second hearing of the appeal could not possibly be said to be Wednesbury unreasonable in the light of the comparable reasoning of Hutchison J in Bradford Metropolitan City Council. Nor, in my judgment, on the facts of this case, could it possibly be said to have been Wednesbury unreasonable to have relied upon it in reaching the decision that it did."
"In my judgment, the approach and principles identified by Hutchison J in the Bradford case and followed in the other cases cited govern the approach of this court in the present appeal. Implicit in this is that accommodation obligatorily occupied by the taxpayer for the purposes of work, and occupation of which prevents him from returning to his usual abode, is not necessarily to be considered as his 'sole or main residence.' Had the tribunal adopted this approach, then, in my judgment, it could not properly have attached weight to the fact that the appellant was forbidden by his commanding officer from commuting between Yorkshire and Lincolnshire and therefore had no choice as to where he lived; nor to the fact that Corporal Stark's car registration documents and driving licence showed his RAF address."
"On analysis it is clear that the Tribunal had no regard to the following factors which were identified by Hutchison J in the Bradford case as relevant to the issue to be decided here:
(1) Corporal Stark's security of tenure at the Mexborough house.
(2) the fact that he spent his time there when off duty;
(3) the fact that if he was not employed by the Royal Air Force he would return to that house; and.
(4 the fact that he house was his marital home.
All these factors, in my judgment, were factors to be taken into account by the tribunal. Had the tribunal taken them into account I am satisfied that, in the light of its other findings of fact, it could not properly have allowed Corporal Stark's appeal but would have been bound to conclude that his sole or main residence was at Mexborough.
Therefore, the council's appeal must be allowed."
"In summary the case for the Appellant is that he bought the property for investment purposes. He did not live there. The property was rented out to tenants. He lived in another property at 24 Moor Lane, Bedford and that was his sole or main residence. The fact that he is not liable to pay council tax on that other property is irrelevant. The property is not his sole or main residence. he is not responsible for paying the council tax on the property. The responsibility is that of the tenants."
"Mr Bennett resided in various places depending on his work commitments. These varied from staying with friends and relatives to B&B's and compounds on the work site."
"Miss Patry, on behalf of the Appellant, and Mr Bennett himself submitted that the principal distinguishing feature between the authorities referred to was that he had never lived at the property at all, whereas in all other cases the person had lived there. It is correct that the Tribunal made no such finding of fact and accordingly there is this distinguishing feature on the facts between the present case and the authorities referred to. However in my judgment the fact that the Appellant did not live at the property is just one factor that must be taken into account. Other factors, which result in findings of facts made by the Tribunal, which are of particular relevance in this connection, are that the Appellant had a legal freehold in the property; there is no other property in which he had a financial interest; it is the only property where he has a right to return; he visited the property (albeit occasionally) probably no more than once per month, to collect post and check the condition of the property etc; it is the property to which he could return were it not for his work commitments and it was the property to which he intended to retire to. In my judgment all these factors are relevant and are entitled to consideration together with the fact that the Appellant did not live at the property when deciding whether the property was his sole or main residents."
"The chargepayer's primary case was that though home is where the heart is, as he put it, and his was very much with his wife and children, nevertheless considerations of that kind ought not to determine the statutory question what was his main residence. In my judgment considerations of that kind are indeed material to the statutory question."