Sabesan v London Borough of Waltham Forest, Court of Appeal - Administrative Court, September 11, 2018, [2018] EWHC 2373 (Admin)

Resolution Date:September 11, 2018
Issuing Organization:Administrative Court
Actores:Sabesan v London Borough of Waltham Forest
 
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Case No: CO/1472/2018

Neutral Citation Number: [2018] EWHC 2373 (Admin)

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE

QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION

ADMINISTRATIVE COURT

ON APPEAL FROM THE VALUATION TRIBUNAL FOR ENGLAND

Royal Courts of Justice

Strand, London, WC2A 2LL

Date: 11 September 2018

Before :

EDWARD MURRAY

sitting as a Deputy Judge of the High Court

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Between :

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Mr David Sawtell (direct access) for the Appellant

The Respondent did not appear and was not represented.

Hearing date: 30 August 2018

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JudgmentEdward Murray sitting as a Deputy Judge of the High Court :

  1. This is an application by Mr Shanmuganathan Sabesan for an extension of time to appeal and, if the extension of time is granted, an appeal against the decision dated 12 October 2017 of Mr M F Young, acting in his capacity as Vice-President of the Valuation Tribunal for England (``the VTE''), in which he refused to authorise Mr Sabesan's appeal to the VTE of a decision of the London Borough of Waltham Forest (``LBWF''), as billing authority, imposing liability for council tax on Mr Sabesan in respect of a freehold property owned by him at 53 Rosebank Grove, London E17 6RD (``the Property''). Mr Sabesan's appeal of that decision to the VTE was made under section 16 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 (``the 1992 Act''), but, before it could be heard, the appeal required authorisation by the President of the VTE under regulation 21(6) of the Valuation Tribunal for England (Council Tax and Rating Appeals) (Procedure) Regulations 2009 (SI 2009/2269) (``the 2009 Regulations'') because the appeal was made out of time.

  2. LBWF had notice of this hearing but declined to attend or to be represented on the basis that, in relation to the appeal against the VTE, it had nothing to add to the reasons given by Mr Young for refusing to authorise that appeal. Its attendance would not therefore be necessary and would not be an efficient use of resources.

    Factual background

  3. Mr Sabesan has owned the freehold of the Property since 1 September 1990. It is his case that at all material times he has demised the Property to tenants and has never resided there himself. In 2001 LBWF designated the property a ``house in multiple occupation'' (``HMO''), falling within Class C of the classes of chargeable dwellings prescribed for the purposes of section 8(1) of the 1992 Act, which is concerned with liability for council tax in prescribed cases. The classes prescribed for these purposes are set out in regulation 2 of the Council Tax (Liability for Owners) Regulations 1992 (SI 1992/551). The effect of this designation was that Mr Sabesan became liable for council tax in respect of the Property, notwithstanding that there were tenants in occupation.

  4. Mr Sabesan states that he was not aware of LBWF's decision in this regard until 2015. LBWF disputes this in light of earlier correspondence with Mr Sabesan and with solicitors acting on his behalf, in relation to the Property. It is not necessary to resolve that factual dispute for present purposes. On 16 August 2016 Mr Sabesan wrote to LBWF contesting his liability and the designation of the Property as an HMO. On 6 September 2016 LBWF wrote to Mr Sabesan refusing to review the decision taken fifteen years earlier to designate the property as an HMO. The letter continued:

    ``You have the right to Appeal this decision. To do so you must make an application to the Valuation Tribunal Service within 2 months of the date of this letter. If made later than 2 months the Valuation Tribunal Service may ask for the reasons for the late appeal and refuse your application if they deem the reasons unsatisfactory.

    The Valuation Tribunal Service is an independent body set up in order to resolve disputes of this kind. They will set a date for a hearing whereby both parties will provide evidence to substantiate their claims. A decision will then be made based on that hearing.''

  5. The LBWF's letter provided contact details for the VTE and reminded Mr Sabesan of his obligation to pay the amounts of council tax demanded by the LBWF, notwithstanding his appeal, and that he would be refunded any overpayment to the extent the appeal was successful. Mr Sabesan received the letter on 12 September 2016. He was therefore on notice from that date that he needed to file his appeal with the VTE within two months.

  6. Before Mr Sabesan received the LBWF's letter of 6 September, he had commenced a challenge to the LBWF's decision to designate the Property as an HMO in the Thames Magistrates' Court. On 6 December 2016 Mr Sabesan asked the Thames' Magistrates court to adjourn the hearing listed on that date so as to allow him to make his appeal. His application was refused.

  7. Mr Sabesan filed his appeal with the VTE on 14 February 2017, three months after the deadline to which his attention had been drawn in LBWF's letter of 6 September 2016. When Mr Sabesan filed his appeal with the VTE, he also filed an application for extension of the time limit for making the appeal.

  8. Mr Young rejected the request for an extension of time to appeal in his written decision dated 12 October 2017. For the purposes of that decision, Mr Young considered that 14 November 2016 was the last day on which the appeal could have been received by the VTE and still be in time. Accordingly, the appeal was filed three months late.

  9. On 1 November 2017, Mr Sabesan requested a review of the decision by the President of the VTE, under regulation 40 of the 2009 Regulations. Regulation 40 stipulates that such a request must be made within 28 days of the relevant decision, as in this case it was. Mr Gary Garland, the President of the VTE, in a letter dated 28 November 2017 notified Mr Sabesan that he was rejecting his request for a review under regulation 40 on the basis that he found no material irregularity in the way the decision of Mr Young had been made. On 5 December 2017 Mr Sabesan wrote to Mr Garland contesting that decision and making additional submissions. On 14 December 2017 Mr Garland replied to Mr Sabesan confirming his earlier decision and indicating that he would not engage in further correspondence on the matter.

  10. This appeal relates to Mr Young's decision of 12 October...

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