ALMOST a third of households who challenged their council tax band last year saw bills fall.
Council tax bills soar by an average of £78 this year for hard-up Brits but checking that you’re in the right band could save you a £1,000 a year.
2 Could you be one of 400,000 homes overpaying on council tax?Credit: Getty
New figures from the Valuation Office Agency show that 31 per cent – or 11,910 – of people who challenged theirs in 2018/19 saw their bills fall as a result.
The problem with banding dates back to 1991, when the new council tax system was launched and the Government needed to value every property in the UK – an estimated 400,000 homes are overpaying on their council tax.
The valuations were done quickly and not very well – meaning you could be paying more council tax than your neighbour, even though you live in the exact same sized property.
But know that challenging your band doesn’t always lower bills – 61 per cent of cases last year stayed the same and 0.8 per cent were unlucky enough to see them rise.
Here’s MoneySavingExpert’s step-by-step guide to seeing if your in the wrong band.
2 Council tax bills are set to rise again next yearCredit: Getty – Contributor
Step One – the neighbours check
The most important step is to find out if you’re in a higher band than your neighbour.
If you don’t fancy the embarrassment of asking them – the information is publicly available.
Use the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) in England or the Scottish Assessors Association (SAA) in Scotland to check your banding and your neighbours.
If they’re in a similar-sized property to you and in a lower band, then you may have a claim.
Be warned though – it might just mean all the other homes in the street are in the wrong band and could face higher bills as a result.
Step Two – the valuation check
You need to estimate how much your house was worth in 1991 and to do that first you’ll need to find out what your house is worth now.
If you bought your home after 1991 you can simply use that price and the date it was sold.
If you bought it or rented it before that you can use a website which offers historic price information such as Zoopla or Rightmove.
Then you can estimate how much your home was worth in 1991, by using MSE’s calculator.
It’s only a rough estimate but it’s important as it might be that your neighbours are in the wrong band and not you – so you could end up hiking their bills if you appeal.
C4 follows five tenants hoping for a new home in Who Wants My Council House?
Step Three – Are you in the wrong band?
Once you’ve done step one and two, you should be in a position to to decide if you’ve can make a legit challenge or not.
But MSE warns that you need to be extra careful as when you do claim as you can’t just ask for it be lowered.
Instead, the council will carry out a “reassessment” which means your band could move up as well as down. This could happen if you’ve added something to your property that increases its value, such as an extension.
Step 4 – Make your challenge!
If you’re sure you’re in the wrong band, then you can make a challenge.
To do so, you can contact the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) directly or via its website and you’ll be given the chance to explain why you think your paying too much.
In Scotland you can do this on the SAA website.
If you’ve been in your home more than six months, you might get told that you can’t challenge your banding but that’s not the case.
If your challenge is rejected and you’re unhappy with the decision you have three months to appeal.
If your successful, not only will you get lower payments going forward but a rebate from the moment you moved into the property – or from 1993.
TOY JOY Asda is selling Paw Patrol ride-ons for just £2.50 RAISING THE BAR Cadbury reveals THREE new choc bars – but only one is in shops for good TIME WARP This ordinary-looking bungalow on sale for £180k hides an incredible interior SHUTTERED UP Boots UK store closures – which branches are closing and why? ROOM TO GROW Homeowners in England can now build extensions WITHOUT planning permission FEELING LUCKY Your paper could be worth £50,000!
What other help is available if I’m struggling to pay my council tax?
There is other help available if you want to try and cut your bills too.
Full-time students don’t need to pay any council tax at all and if you live alone you could qualify for a 25 per cent discount on your bills.
In a little-known scheme, if you live with someone who has a permanent condition that affects their intelligence or social functioning – something like Alzheimer’s or severe learning difficulties, you could also get a quarter off your bill.
And if you want to spread the cost of your payments a little further you can ask to make your payments over a full 12 months, rather than the usual 10.
More than 1.7million Brits are owed an average of £137 each in council tax refunds, according to new research.
Martin Lewis says thousands pay too much council tax and reveals how to check yours on This Morning
We pay for your stories! Do you have a story for The Sun Online Money team? Email us at email@example.com or call 0207 78 24516