Gian Piero de Bellis

Letter to a valuation officer concerning a property in Oxford that cannot be used for independent living while charged with 3 council tax

(September 2019)


Your Reference 3110/BA/35703/541

To Andrew Corkish MRICS

Dear Mr Corkish

On date 29 April 2018 I received two letters from your Valuation Office concerning my property at 105 St. Mary's road – Oxford OX4 1QD.

With those letters I was informed about an alteration in the valuation list concerning two old annexes attached to my house. Those two annexes were now considered independent dwellings and so subject to Council Tax.
At that time the property was for sale as I have moved abroad a few years ago and, given my age, I do not feel any longer capable of managing a house so distant from where I currently live (a small village in the Swiss Jura).

When I received your letters, the two annexes had been left unused for quite a while but I was pleased that the new owner could use them as independent dwellings if he thought so. This, as a matter of fact, was what your valuation was suggesting to me. For this reason I did not make any objection to it and, when requested, I started paying two extra Council Tax on top of the one I was already paying for the house.
At the same time I sent a message to the City Council asking for confirmation that the two annexes could very well used as independent dwellings by the new owner. I did not receive any reply to my request for clarification and so I assumed that this was implicit in the new valuation.

To my surprise, in September 2018, by pure chance, being in Oxford for a few days, I found two letters from the City Council Planning Department, from two different individuals where they affirmed that they needed to come to my place to make sure that I was not using the two annexes as independent dwellings because that would be against the law.

One of them (Mr. Paterson) came and reaffirmed that the two annexes were not to be used as independent dwellings. I informed him that I was already paying two extra council tax because they were considered independent dwellings. He replied that this was none of his business and that he was doing his job as planning officer and had nothing to do with the other departments of the same Council.

I wrote then to Mr. Witts of the Finance Department presenting my case i.e. that I was paying two extra Council Tax for two annexes that were not used as independent dwellings and, by order of the Planning Department, could not be used as independent dwellings. I underlined also the fact that, given this situation, my chances to find a buyer for a property with 3 Council Tax in the presence of such restriction of use were nil, meaning that I was ready to accept any decision but not two contradictory decisions (payment without possibility of use). He replied that this was none of his business.

In the presence of this situation, considering that, in order to make the property saleable to an extended family or to an investor, I had put two spare beds in those annexes, I decided to get rid of those beds and of all additional facilities that might give the chance to use the annexes as independent dwellings. In other words I reverted them to be two storage rooms for all the stuff that could not find place in the house (see photos). I then informed the person at the planning department and the one at the finance department about it, hoping that they would come to see by themselves that there was no trace of two extra independent dwellings and acted accordingly. None of them came.

The person from the finance department wrote back saying that the presence of a sink in the annexes was sufficient to classify them as independent dwellings. If this is the case, I would like this to be stated in writing by your Valuation Office (“the presence of a sink qualify something as independent dwelling”). Having lived many years in Oxford and having visited the houses of friends I know that even in a shed you can find a tap with a sink in order to get water for the garden.

So, summing up the case, the two annexes at 105 St. Mary's road, Oxford, are:
• unused as independent dwellings;
• unusable as independent dwellings by order of the City of Oxford (Planning Department);
• not apt to be used as independent dwellings as there is no bedding, no cooking and no heating facilities. They are simply two storage rooms or, better, two dumping grounds.

Being this the case I ask you:
• to send somebody for inspection. Even if I am not in Oxford, I can arrange for somebody to give access to the property. By the way, the two annexes are unlocked and so of easy access to anybody in the house. Clearly, the inspector should not be from the Oxford City Council as there is a conflict of interest when the valuator is also the one benefiting from the valuation.
• to modify the listing of the two annexes following your inspection.
• to take a decision concerning the two extra council tax that I have paid so far. If you think that there are sufficient reasons for a refund I would like the money to go to School Project in Burkina Faso that a friend of mine has set up recently and which I support.

If you need further clarifications, I can be reached by e-mail at this address:

Otherwise by letter at this postal address:

Gian Piero de Bellis
c/o World Wide Wisdom
Research & Documentation Centre
rue de la Malathe 4
2610 Saint Imier (CH)

Please do not send any communication to my Oxford address as the letter will remain unopened until the end of the year or perhaps until next spring.

Yours sincerely

Gian Piero de Bellis


Annexe 1

Annexe 2


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