Regulations under The Local Government Finance Act 1992 renamed The Valuation and Community Charge Tribunals as Valuation Tribunals. The regulations give the Tribunal jurisdiction over decisions made by the billing authority, completion notices, penalties and appeals relating to alterations to the valuation list.
Separate regulations govern the appeals procedures for liability and valuation matters but they are very similar and can be organised into:
- Administration of the appeal (including arbitration)
- Conduct of the hearing
- Further appeals
The valuation tribunal is an independent body and each tribunal serves the residents and businesses of several adjacent councils. The tribunals deal with many other matters as well as council tax and business rates appeals. The membership of the tribunal comprises councillors from the authorities it serves supported by an administration headed by the clerk to the tribunal. Councillors do not sit on hearings that involve their authority.
Decision by billing authority
Subject to conditions a person may appeal to a valuation tribunal if he is aggrieved by the following decisions of a billing authority:
- A decision of a billing authority that a dwelling is a chargeable dwelling, or that he is liable to pay the council tax in respect of that dwelling
- A calculation made by a billing authority of an amount which he is liable to pay
- The imposition of a penalty
The remit is sufficiently wide enough to cover decisions regarding liability, discounts, exemptions and disability reductions. However appeals regarding council tax benefit are not dealt with by the Valuation Tribunal because they are subject to the housing benefit review procedures.
The conditions are that with the exception of appeals against the imposition of a penalty, no appeal may be made unless the aggrieved person serves a written notice on the billing authority stating the matter on which he is aggrieved and his reasons. Having served the notice an appeal may be made if the person is notified in writing that the grievance is not well founded; notified in writing that steps have been taken to deal with the grievance, but the person is still aggrieved; or the billing authority makes no reply within two months.
Billing authorities and listing officers are empowered to impose a financial penalty in prescribed circumstances. Repeat offences of the prescribed circumstances can result in repeat or escalating penalties being imposed. An aggrieved person may appeal to a valuation tribunal on the imposition of a penalty or that there is no power to impose a penalty and the appeal must be made within 2 months of it being imposed. There are no formal preliminary arrangements in regulations but as good practice many billing authorities offer informal arrangements similar to those in place for other appeals against decisions made by a billing authority.
Administration of the appeal
There is no prescribed form on which to lodge an appeal but Valuation Tribunals offer a standard form to ensure appellants include all the mandatory elements. Within two weeks of receiving the appeal the Clerk to the Tribunal will issue an acknowledgement to the appellant and the billing authority. The appeal may be dealt with by written representation or under the Arbitration Act 1950 and in the case of a valuation appeal the Chair of the Tribunal may convene a pre-hearing meeting. The Clerk to the Tribunal will give all parties 4 weeks written notice of the hearing of the appeal.
Any party to the appeal may appear in person and be represented by a legal or other representative who is not a member of the tribunal. The hearing will be in the presence of three tribunal members with one elected as the chair. The tribunal members are councillors from other billing authority served by the same tribunal. If all parties agree the hearing can proceed with only two members. The conduct of the hearing, matters of evidence and the decision are all subject to regulations.
The conduct of the hearing
The hearing will be in public unless a party to the hearing satisfies the tribunal that a public hearing will prejudice them. In the event of a non-attendance by one or more parties to the hearing the tribunal can dismiss the appeal or conduct the hearing in their absence. The parties to the appeal may present evidence and call witnesses and the tribunal may conduct the hearing in a manner of their own discretion, including whether to take evidence on oath.
Information shall be admissible as evidence of fact and any document is presumed to be supplied by the person supplying it in the capacity in which they purport to supply it. The contents of a valuation list may be proved by the production of a copy of it certified to be a true copy by the listing officer and special arrangements must be followed regarding evidence supplied by a listing officer.
A listing officer shall not use information at a hearing unless having first given at least two weeks' notice to every other party specifying the information, the media in which it is held and the dwelling(s) to which it relates. Any person entitled to inspect the information and take copies may do so provided at least 24 hours' notice is given.
Any person on whom an information notice has been served may serve notice on the listing officer specifying other dwellings comparable or otherwise relevant to that person's case. The number of dwellings specified in the notice shall not exceed whichever is the greater of four or the number in the listing officer's notice.
The notice may require the listing officer to permit him to inspect and make copies (other than photographic copies) of any document containing information relating to those other dwellings and to produce or submit to the tribunal such documents as before the hearing he has informed the listing officer that he requires.
An appeal may be decided by a majority decision of the three tribunal members and where two members hear the appeal and are unable to agree the appeal shall be remitted to a tribunal consisting of three different members. Where an appeal is disposed of on the basis of a hearing, the decision may be reserved or given orally at the end of the hearing. In all cases the decision will be confirmed in writing accompanied by a statement of the reasons for the decision and an order to the billing authority or listing officer where necessary.
On deciding a valuation appeal the Valuation Tribunal may by order require a listing officer to alter a list and any ancillary matter and the listing officer shall comply within six weeks. Where the order is that the valuation band should be higher than the band at the date of the proposal the order shall require the list to be altered from the day on which the decision is given.
On or after deciding an appeal on a decision by a billing authority the tribunal may order:
- An estimate to be quashed or altered
- A penalty to be quashed
- The decision of a billing authority to be reversed
- A calculation of an amount to be quashed and recalculated
- Any ancillary matter to be attended to
If a party to an appeal makes a written application within 4 weeks of a decision being given then the Chair of a Valuation Tribunal has the power to review or set aside a decision. Where a listing officer applies for the review he shall, at the same time or as soon as practicable, notify the billing authority of the application.
The grounds that the tribunal can consider are:
- The decision was wrongly made as a result of clerical error
- A party who did not appear can show reasonable cause
- The decision is affected by a decision of the High Court or Lands Tribunal
Where practicable the tribunal that reviews the decision should have the same members as the tribunal who took the original decision. If the tribunal sets aside a decision it shall revoke any order made in consequence of that decision and order a re-hearing before either the same or a different tribunal. As soon as practicable after a tribunal completes the review the clerk to the tribunal shall give written notice of the decision to every party to the appeal.
An appeal may be made to the High Court on a question of law arising out of a decision or order of a tribunal. The Court may dismiss the appeal if it is not made within four weeks of the date of the decision, notice or order that is the subject of the appeal. Where a listing officer makes an appeal he shall at the same time, or as soon as practicable, notify the billing authority of the appeal. The High Court may confirm, vary, set aside, revoke or remit the decision or order of the tribunal and make an order the tribunal could have made.