QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION
THE ADMINISTRATIVE COURT
London WC2A 2LL
B e f o r e :
|THE QUEEN ON THE APPLICATION OF ABDUL HAKEEM||Claimant|
|VALUATION TRIBUNAL SERVICE||Defendant|
|LONDON BOROUGH OF ENFIELD||Interested Party|
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Ms C Parry (instructed by the London Borough of Enfield) appeared on behalf of the Interested Party
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"An appeal shall lie to the High Court on a question of law arising out of the decision or order which is given or made by a tribunal on an appeal and may be made by any party to the appeal."
Thus this court can interfere with the decision of the Valuation Tribunal only if an error of law is disclosed. There is no right of appeal to this court from the original decision of the London Borough of Enfield, and this court is not conducting a judicial review of that decision or of Enfield's approach to the investigation of this case. I have therefore concentrated on the decision of the Tribunal in considering the complaints made by this appellant.
"Decision and Reasons:
The Tribunal, having carefully considered all the evidence, reaches the following conclusions.
The Tribunal notes the appellant's contention that the Billing Authority did not correctly follow the provisions of Section 18(1)(2), Section 19 and Section 20 of the Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement) Regulations 1992.
However, while the Tribunal notes the circumstances in which the appeal arose, it is satisfied that it must restrict itself to establishing the correctness, or otherwise, of the Billing Authority's determination regarding liability for payment. Further, the Tribunal is satisfied that it should not comment on matters, such as those relating to the service of demand notices, which fall outside its jurisdiction.
The Tribunal notes the appellant's contention that the appeal property was let to Ms Banyure from 2002 to 2007, and that although the term of the tenancy was initially for one year, there was an implied condition of an automatic renewal of the tenancy unless a party gave notice of termination.
Tribunal also notes the Authority's contention that it was questionable whether Ms Banyure had been resident at the property. However, having noted the existence of a tenancy in the name of Ms Banyure, the Tribunal considers that the tenancy agreement can be accepted as evidence of her being resident at the appeal property from 1 September 2002 to 30 August 2003.
While the Tribunal notes the appellant's contention that Ms Banyure continued to reside at the property after August 2003, it considers that it has not been provided with any evidence by the appellant to support this view. However, the Tribunal notes and accepts the Authority's evidence that Ms Banyure was a resident of Broxbourne Council. In particular, it notes that a report by Experian credit check on Ms Banyure indicates a number of financial transactions at an address in Broxbourne.
The Tribunal notes the Authority's further contentions that several other individuals lived at the appeal property during the contended period and that Mr Hakeem himself had been resident at the property. However, although the Tribunal notes the contents of the Experian credit report, and while the financial transactions carried out at the appeal property seem to support the view that several other individuals lived at 266 Ordnance Road, it considers that the Billing Authority did not provide any conclusive evidence that the house had been in multiple occupation or indeed if Mr Hakeem had been resident at the property.
In considering liability, the Tribunal notes the appellant's contention that he came lowest under the hierarchy of liability. However, the Tribunal notes that under Section 6 of The Local Government Finance Act 1992, the liable person was the resident of the property and that where there was no resident, liability for payment rested with the leaseholder or non-resident owner of the property. Thus, having considered the evidence provided by the parties, the Tribunal takes the view that there is no evidence to suggest that Mr Hakeem was not resident at the appeal property.
Concluding its deliberations, the Tribunal considers that the appellant has not provided it with sufficient evidence to establish his case or to supplement what it considers to be his unsupported statements. Consequently, the Tribunal is unable to accept the appellant's assertions and, as a fact finding Tribunal, is of the opinion that it is entitled to reject the appellant's statement that Ms Banyure had continued to reside at the property after 2003.
Therefore, having carefully considered and weighed the evidence alongside the relevant legislation, the Tribunal is satisfied that for the period 1 September 2002 to 30 August 2003, liability for payment of council tax rests with Ms Banyure, as the person who was resident at the appeal property, under Section 6(a).
The Tribunal considers that from 31 August 2003 to 17 January 2008, Ms Banyure was no longer resident at the appeal dwelling. However, the Tribunal has not been provided with any evidence to suggest that the dwelling had been let to someone else during this period. Consequently, Mr Hakeem, as the owner of the property must be held liable under Section 6(f).
Further, the Tribunal notes Mr Hakeem's contention that he should not be made to pay council tax retrospectively, however, this is a matter for the Magistrates Court to determine, not the Tribunal. The Tribunal is cognisant that under Section 8(3) Local Government Finance Act 1992 it states that where on any day that this subsection has effect in relation to a dwelling (namely the designation that the dwelling is a house in multiple occupation), the owner of the dwelling shall be liable to pay the council tax in respect of the dwelling and that day.
Therefore, in the circumstances, the appeal is allowed in part."
The statutory framework
"(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;
(b) he is such a resident and has a leasehold interest in the whole or any part of the dwelling which is not inferior to another such interest held by another such resident;
(c) he is both such a resident and a statutory or secure tenant of the whole or any part of the dwelling;
(d) he is such a resident and has a contractual licence to occupy the whole or any part of the dwelling;
(e) he is such a resident; or
(f) he is the owner of the dwelling.
(3) Where, in relation to any chargeable dwelling and any day, two or more persons fall within the first paragraph of subsection (2) above to apply, they shall each be jointly and severally liable to pay the council tax in respect of the dwelling and that day.
(4) Subsection (3) above shall not apply as respects any day on which one or more of the persons there mentioned fall to be disregarded for the purposes of discount by virtue of paragraph 2 of Schedule 1 to this Act (the severely mentally impaired) and one or more of them do not; and liability to pay the council tax in respect of the dwelling and that day shall be determined as follows—
(a) if only one of those persons does not fall to be so disregarded, he shall be solely liable;
(b) if two or more of those persons do not fall to be so disregarded, they shall each be jointly and severally liable.
(5) In this Part, unless the context otherwise requires—
'owner', in relation to any dwelling, means the person as regards whom the following conditions are fulfilled—
(a) he has a material interest in the whole or any part of the dwelling; and
(b) at least part of the dwelling or, as the case may be, of the part concerned is not subject to a material interest inferior to his interest;
'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.
(6) In this section—
'material interest' means a freehold interest or a leasehold interest which was granted for a term of six months or more;
'secure tenant' means a tenant under a secure tenancy within the meaning of Part IV of the [1985 c. 68.] Housing Act 1985;
'statutory tenant' means a statutory tenant within the meaning of the [1977 c. 42.] Rent Act 1977 or the [1976 c. 80.] Rent (Agriculture) Act 1976."
"(1) The demand notice is to be served—
(a) on or as soon as practicable after the day the billing authority first sets an amount of council tax for the relevant year for the category of dwellings within which the chargeable dwelling to which the notice relates...
(2) For the purposes of paragraph (1), 'category' shall be construed in accordance with section 30(4) of the Act; and where a demand notice is served before 1st April 1993, a dwelling shall be treated as included in the category in which, in the opinion of the billing authority, it will be included on 1st April 1993."
"(1) A person may appeal to a valuation tribunal if he is aggrieved by—
(a) any decision of a billing authority that a dwelling is a chargeable dwelling, or that he is liable to pay council tax in respect of such a dwelling; or
(b) any calculation made by such an authority of an amount which he is liable to pay to the authority in respect of council tax."
(1) The Tribunal ignored or misdirected themselves as to the provision for automatic renewal contained in clause 2 of Ms Banyure's tenancy agreement, and erroneously concluded that she was not resident at the property and not liable for payment of council tax after August 2003.
(2) There was insufficient evidence before the Tribunal to enable them to conclude that the appellant was liable for payment of council tax during the period 2003 to 2008.
(3) the evidence that the Tribunal relied upon was inconsistent, contradictory and unsatisfactory and the Tribunal erred in relying upon it in order to decide as they did.
(4) The appellant was presented with a bundle of documentary evidence being relied upon by the London Borough of Enfield only shortly before the Tribunal hearing was about to commence and he had insufficient time to respond adequately to the evidence being relied upon.
I deal with these submissions in turn.