What is a furnished or a substantially unfurnished property for Council Tax purposes ? Neither furnished or substantially unfurnished has been defined in legislation and therefore it can be a difficult question to resolve.
There are however some general guidelines which have been developed over time and most local authorities will utilise similar definitions.
Furnished or substantially unfurnished
Several pieces of Council Tax legislation rely on the distinction between furnished and substantially unfurnished – the most expensive one probably being the legislation regarding long-term empty properties.
Although the terms crops up regularly no attempt has been made to formally define either furnished or substantially unfurnished. The actual definitions are therefore open to interpretation and reliant on tribunal decisions to try to form a guide.
High Court and Valuation Tribunal decisions
There have been no significant High Court cases or Valuation Tribunal decisions in which the concepts of furnished and substantially unfurnished have been considered and fully defined. This means you cannot rely on any real precedent or case law to make a determination for you.
Although each local authority takes a slightly different interpretation a general guide would be as to whether a property was furnished sufficiently for basic living to take place relative to the size of the property.
For example,a 1 bed flat could be furnished with a single bed and cooking facilities whereas a 4 bed property may not. It should be remembered however that this is just indicative and not a hard rule.
Valuation Tribunal Appeal
If in doubt over the local authority definitions an appeal should be made to the Valuation Tribunal. The Tribunal will make an independent, binding, decision over whether the local authority made a correct decision or not.
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This article is solely the view of LGFA92, the Council Tax experts, based on our interpretation of legislation. Your local authority is free to dispute this view. A binding decision may require the intervention of a valuation tribunal.