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Double trouble as tenants face council tax hell

PUBLISHED: 14:06 20 March 2008 | UPDATED: 14:53 07 September 2010

Tenants in a Hampstead apartment block have found themselves in a bureaucratic nightmare - where they are being forced to pay council tax twice. Some 48 long-term residents of the block are paying tax bills to both their landlord, Samuel Ziser

Marc Mullen

Tenants in a Hampstead apartment block have found themselves in a bureaucratic nightmare - where they are being forced to pay council tax twice.

Some 48 long-term residents of the block are paying tax bills to both their landlord, Samuel Ziser, and to Camden Council, totalling around £1,500 a year, because of a row over whether their homes are separate flats or bedsits.

After taking Mr Ziser to the London Rent Assessment Panel for trying to bump up rents in 2004, the tenants were told to add council tax to their rent cheques.

But in the same year the Valuation Office told tenants that they should be paying tax directly to the council, because they were living in separate flats.

Alan Formosa, 59, who is expected to pay £614 in council tax annually to the landlord as well as £867 directly to Camden Council, has been fighting the decision for years.

He said: "I am paying nearly £1,500 a year for a sub-standard property. My room and 31 others are less than 12 square metres in area, which is Camden's standard for a self-contained studio flat.

"The problem we are having is that no-one is in the least bit concerned or willing to help."

In August last year Mr Formosa appealed to the London Rent Assessment Panel against paying council tax to his landlord. The panel determined the room is "not self-contained" and "the shared facilities are poor" and stood by its original decision.

Last week its chairwoman Helen Carr wrote: "We suggest that you take legal advice on the decision of the Valuation Office and their refusal to recognise that the property is a house of multiple occupancy."

Mr Formosa said: "We cannot afford to take legal advice. No-one seems to care - not the ombudsman, the council nor the Fair Rent Office. It's a scandal."

David MacDonald from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister wrote to Mr Formosa saying his department had no responsibility for the council tax system, but said: "I should point out that if you are paying council tax directly on your property, you should not also be paying a contribution towards your council tax."

A spokeswoman for Camden Council said it had stopped collecting council tax from Mr Formosa's landlord in November 2004. She added: "If he is still paying council tax as part of his rent he has to speak to his landlord."

Mr Ziser was unavailable for comment.

marc.mullen@hamhigh.co.uk

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