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Flood victims win in council tax dispute

JPCT 030514 S14190780x Pulborough couple annoyed that they have to pay council tax on vacant property while it is flood-damaged and uninhabitable. Dr Wheeler -photo by Steve Cobb SUS-140605-121647001

JPCT 030514 S14190780x Pulborough couple annoyed that they have to pay council tax on vacant property while it is flood-damaged and uninhabitable. Dr Wheeler -photo by Steve Cobb SUS-140605-121647001

A couple have finally won a long battle with the council to reclaim four months of council tax payments on their flooded vacant home.

Alan Wheeler and Anne Sartain’s Pulborough home was flooded on Christmas Eve 2013 and has remained vacant ever since, but the couple have had to pay council tax on their temporary accommodation as well as the ‘unliveable’ property for four months.

Dr Wheeler said: “It’s been terrible. We’re paying for council tax where we are now - that’s two lots to Horsham District Council, that to me seems unfair.

“People keep asking us if we’re back in yet - it’s incredibly emotional for us.”

Dr Wheeler claimed he contacted Horsham District Council (HDC) after the flood and the couple were granted a 25 per cent tax reduction for 30 days in January.

Having suffered three feet of flooding in the property, Dr Wheeler and Mrs Sartain were advised by their insurance company to leave their home on the grounds of health and safety.

“The whole kitchen is out, both bathrooms are out with dust and muck stuck to everything. It all needs to be chucked away, including the kitchen cupboards. We can’t use anything that might be contaminated. It’s unliveable.”

After more than four months in temporary accommodation and with no indication as to when they can move back, the couple have been fighting with the council to receive 100 per cent reduction on their council tax until the issue is resolved.

Dr Wheeler said the insurance companies, Royal & Sun Alliance (contents) and Halifax (home), have been ‘very good’ but the process is slow.

In a new development last month, Minister Brandon Lewis announced in a press release that the government will extend the council tax discount to all flood victims for as long as they are unable to return to their homes.

Mr Lewis said: “Thankfully many people have been able to return to their homes, but for some the process of homes drying out is going to take a little longer still. I don’t want to see any of those families having to worry about paying their council tax while they focus on getting their lives back in order.”

A spokesperson for HDC said: “In this case, a 25 per cent discount was originally given before guidance on the 100 per cent flood relief scheme had been passed to the council.

“Since then the overpayment of council tax has been repaid.”

 

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