Council tax row after resident’s innocent query

Pearl Court SUS-140107-110758001
Pearl Court SUS-140107-110758001

Residents at Pearl Court were suddenly charged and extra £362 a year in council tax after their neighbour queried his band.

There was a newcomer to the block of flats in Cornfield Terrace three years ago and the couple queried their council tax band to ensure they were not paying too much.

However, instead of lowering their band, 16 other residents had their band raised – creating a divided community and resulting in a long court battle.

The man and his wife, who refused to be named, spoke to a financial supplement and explained they moved into one of the larger flats at Pearl Court three years ago. They paid £299,995 for the four-bedroom flat, which was in council tax band E. Almost immediately they realised other similar-sized flats were in council tax band D.

Based on current rates from Eastbourne Borough Council, a band D property pays £1,630 a year and band E £1,992 a year. The couple felt this was unfair and they challenged it.

The man told the national newspaper he thought it was an ‘open-shut case’ and hadn’t dreamed it would cause anyone else any trouble.

However, trouble was caused when the couple’s challenge triggered a review of the other flats in the block and resulted in 16 of the 28 flats receiving letters informing them their bill was to rise.

Eastbourne Borough Council was also informed of the rise.

It is a little known risk that the tribunal can raise a band and review the neighbours’ homes too.

Eleven Pearl Court residents appealed and attended a tribunal and Uckfield. The majority won their case. All of the flats in blocks B and C would stay as they had been in band D. They received a refund for nine months’ worth of extra council tax they had paid. But blocks A and D were moved into band E.

The man who originally challenged his band and sparked the controversy at Pearl Court told the national newspaper, “It’s just awful. ‘I’m now known as that neighbour who rocked the boat for everyone and caused my neighbours distress – many of whom are elderly women who live on their own.

“I usually have such great respect for the law, but there is something very un-English about how unfair this whole saga has been.”