The Land and Property Services “LPS” is the part of the Department of Finance which collects the rates from the public. Some years ago, a change was made to legislation in that vacant properties were no longer exempt from rates. It was enacted in Article 25A of the Rates [Northern Ireland] Order 1977.
This amendment, however, also stated that in order for someone to be liable for rates, they had to be entitled to possession of the property. Subsequently, an individual who has had a property repossessed should no longer be liable for the rates of this property. Correct?
Well, not exactly, as a Bank or other lender when seeking the eviction of the mortgagor aided and abetted by LPS, will always try to ensure that the home owner pays the rates, even after they have been put out of their home.
In order to avoid this liability, the Bank, as well as obtaining an order for possession, uses a little known provision on the mortgage agreement. In circumstances where there has been a default in repayment, the Bank can, under the terms of the mortgage, appoint a fixed charge receiver. The receiver, frequently an estate agent, is legally acting not for the Bank but for the householder.
This is very difficult to understand as the appointment is made by the Bank, without the permission of the householder and frequently without the householder’s knowledge. Therefore, how can the receiver possibly be working for the householder?
The receiver’s job is to market the house and find a purchaser. All the costs and liabilities of the receiver are to be the responsibility of the householder. But there is a further consequence. The Banks assert that because the receiver supposedly acts for the householder, that person hasn’t really left the property and must still be liable for the rates.
At this point, the LPS have a decision to make. To whom does it send the rates bill for a repossessed and empty property? The Bank will disclaim liability, citing the fixed charge receiver ploy. As a result, rather than having to take on the Bank, the LPS will simply demand payment from the former owner and, if none is forthcoming, they will issue proceedings against them.
The simple explanation for the LPS attitude is that it is easier to take on the ordinary citizen than the Banks and generally, in the face of this, most ordinary citizens pay up.
However, recently the LPS have withdrawn one such set of proceedings in the face of opposition.
What should I do?
When speaking with your Bank regarding repossession proceedings ensure that you make notes of all conversations with them. Also ensure that you always keep all correspondence received and more importantly keep your nerve.
If your property has been officially repossessed and a fixed charge receiver appointed then don’t pay the rates. Simply just quote the legislation!
What we can do to help?
Since 2010, GDP Equity Experts have helped hundreds of families deal with debt related issues. We have been leading the way in this regulated area over the last 8 years and have particular expertise in helping people deal with crippling debt related issues.
We would like the opportunity to share this with you. As a result, our team are more than ready to engage and assist if you have been affected by this or you have any other property debt related issues.
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