HOUSING: Different rules apply

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As a private home provider, I was very interested in your article ‘Tenants leave council £2.5m repair bill’ (News Guardian, July 20).

My wife and I have been providing a few private homes for rent in North Tyneside for many years.

We often have to face the same problems as North Tyneside Council and the increasing cost of dealing with the disgusting, broken down state that some tenants leave rented properties in.

But there are a number of important differences.

The council’s repairs are funded from public funds, but private home providers’ repairs have to come out of their own pockets.

Nor does the council charge itself empty property council tax during the time to carry out repairs and to find a new tenant.

When a private rented property becomes empty, awaiting similar repairs essential for a new tenant, the council sends a Demand Notice for 100 per cent payment of council tax, payable from the first day it became empty, ignoring a home provider’s need to comply with the Housing, Health and Safety Rating System, among other increasing lawful requirements, before an empty house can be re-let.

I was summonsed to appear at North Tyneside Magistrates Court last year for non-payment of empty property council tax on a property left in an uninhabitable condition by an absconding tenant.

The council was quickly awarded the council tax, plus costs. I’m still wondering why the hearing was held in a magistrates court that deals with criminal offences instead of a civil court.

Surely, non-payment of any form of council tax is a civil debt, not a criminal act?

Perhaps I’m not catching up with all the new laws and regulations, possibly because I’m 88 and I retired only in June after 72 years hard work, starting in 1944, but I can almost hear some councillors talking, “Aye well he’s a ‘landlord’ so he’ll have plenty money”.

Well no one ever appointed me a ‘Lord’, which is why, like all other so-called ‘landlords’, I am simply a home provider.

Len White