QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION
B e f o r e :
|PETER CLEMENT (LISTING OFFICER)||Appellant|
|C B BRYANT AND OTHERS||Respondents|
Smith Bernal Wordwave Limited
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THE RESPONDENT did not appear and was not represented.
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"Where a single property contains more than one self-contained unit, for the purposes of part 1 of [the Local Government Finance Act 1992] the property shall be treated as comprising as many dwellings as there are such units included in it and each such unit shall be treated as a dwelling."
A self-contained unit is defined in article 2 as:
"a building or part of a building which has been constructed or adapted for use as separate living accommodation."
The effect of the Order is that where, within a single building, there are a number of self-contained units, each of those self-contained units is separately assessed for council tax purposes. The valuation officer had so assessed the 11 units, but Age Concern on behalf of the residents argued that they were not self-contained.
"the individual bedsit units under appeal ... were not self-contained in nature because the handwash basin facility within each toilet was basic and too insufficient to constitute adequate washing requirements. This was especially true when considering the elderly nature of the residents who might require additional assistance in such circumstances.
Further, the Tribunal took into account other factors, such as there being one TV licence for the premises, shared bathrooms, lounge and laundry facilities, which pointed to a high degree of communality and dependency. Additionally, there was only one access point, which in the Tribunal's opinion would pose a difficulty if the units were to be sold separately on the open market.
Taking the above points into account, the Tribunal concluded that the units failed to qualify the definition of 'self contained unit' under Article 2 of the Council Tax (Chargeable Dwellings) Order 1992 and could not therefore be considered to be dwellings for the purposes of Article 3 of the same Order."
"which has stood the test of time and has been followed by the rating authorities and tribunals up and down this country ever since. This is the case upon which the listing officer relied and which satisfied the tribunal that this applicant's flat should be separately rated rather than aggregated with the rest of the property."
Simon Brown LJ noted that the occupiers of the various units in the house also had to share a bathroom and WC. Thus, it is plain that the mere fact that a property which is otherwise self-contained does not contain a bath or a shower does not of itself take it out of the definition of self-contained unit for the purposes of the 1992 Order.
"In coming to this conclusion, the tribunal has borne in mind the limited facilities enjoyed by each unit, the communal areas within Pinder House and the fact that Pinder House is controlled by one body with strict rules, including the criteria applied for residency."
Dealing with the Tribunal's reliance upon that last factor, the fact that Pinder House was controlled by one body, I said this:
"Whether Pinder House was controlled by one body and whether that body had criteria for residency, had nothing to do with whether the flats had been constructed for use as separate living accommodation."
A little earlier I had sought to identify the underlying principle:
"that when looking at articles 2 and 3 of the 1992 Order, one focuses not upon the use that is actually made of the building, but upon whether it has been constructed for use as separate living accommodation."
I said that:
"I would be prepared to accept that in deciding whether a particular flat has or has not been constructed for use as separate living accommodation within a larger building, it will often be relevant to consider the extent of the facilities which have been provided in the flat and the extent of the communal facilities which have been provided in the remainder of the building. An obvious example, perhaps, at one end of the spectrum, would be traditional student accommodation in a student hostel, where all that may be available in a student's room is simply the bedroom, and all other facilities - cooking, washing and toilet facilities - are provided communally. Plainly, such factors are, in principle, relevant to the question of whether a particular room has been constructed for use as separate living accommodation. But on the facts here, can it be said that any reasonable tribunal could have reached the conclusion that, given the extent of the facilities provided in the flats, which I have set out above, and given the extent of the communal facilities, these flats have not been constructed for use as separate living accommodation?"
Thus, the fact that the bedsits in the present case happen to be occupied by elderly people is simply an incident of the use to which they are actually put and is not a matter which should have been taken into consideration by the Tribunal in deciding the question under articles 2 and 3 of the 1992 Order.
"The High Court may confirm, vary, set aside, revoke or remit the decision or order of the tribunal, and may make any order the tribunal could have made."
The practical question is whether any purpose would be served in remitting this matter for a further decision by the Tribunal or whether the court should step into the Tribunal's shoes and make the necessary order. I am satisfied that the latter is the proper course. For the reasons set out above the only reasonable conclusion open to the Tribunal on the facts here was that, despite the lack of a shower, these units were undoubtedly constructed or adapted for use as separate living accommodation. The fact that there has been no opposition by either the Tribunal or the residents to this appeal reinforces my view that it would be pointless to remit the matter to the Tribunal. The proper course is for me to order that there be an appropriate entry made in the list.