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Recycling charges - another back-door tax on buy to let?

What appears at first sight to be a low-level dispute between a landlord and a council has raised what may be a bigger issue for letting agencies and property managers as well as individual buy to let investors - paying for rubbish disposal.

A Brentwood landlord has taken to the local media in his area to say that Essex County Council rules have banned him from taking his garden waste to their recycling centres.

The Essex Live website says Sam Samarasekera owns 13 properties in Brentwood, including some that are multiple occupancy; he has been warned that he is breaking the law by taking a trailer of grass cuttings to a council recycling centre. 

Samarasekera says new rules that ban small vans, pick-up trucks and multi-axle trailers will only encourage fly-tipping, and discriminate against individuals like him having to manage properties responsibly. 

"The very nature of HMOs is that no single tenant in a property is responsible for maintaining the garden and disposing of the waste that comes with it, such as grass cuttings and hedges. Furthermore there will occasionally be a broken bed or electrical equipment too, such as a fridge or microwave. It is the responsibility of me, the landlord, to dispose of these” he tells Essex Live.

Research by Letting Agent Today, questioning over a dozen local authorities in different parts of England, suggests that similar rules exist in almost every area.

Local authorities say small-scale individual builders, developers and landlords deposit large quantities of waste at recycling centres - larger firms in vehicles that cannot be described as ‘private’ because of their size or branding have to pay fees.

Samarasekera says: "Mine is a tiny trailer but this is not about the size or the number of wheels. They are jumping on me because I take it from other houses and the whole thing is so counter-productive. I understand there is an issue with builders taking their loads to the recycling centre but I am a private landlord."

Essex County Council has written to Samarasekera, saying he is breaking the law by disposing of garden waste at the recycling centre.

A statement from the council, quoted in the story, says: "The taxpayer cannot continue to pick up the bill for businesses that don't dispose of their waste properly. These operational changes will stop people unlawfully disposing of business and trade waste at recycling centres at the expense of the taxpayer, whilst still providing the facility for residents to dispose of their legitimate DIY waste when carrying out ad-hoc work at home themselves."

  • Barry X

    I've had exactly the same thing happen to me now and then..... various "job's worths" at the council dump (more grandly known as the "Household Reuse and Recycling Centre"). I have a small single-axle trailer and used to use it for clearing gardening waste, or very occasionally disposing of old furniture and mattresses and things (we rent unfurnished and sometimes tenants leave abandoned furniture behind that we don't want or need). The great thing about the trailer, apart from protecting the car from getting dirty, is you can get everything to the dump (yes, I still like to call it that) in a single journey, which is good from every point of view - saving me time, less journeys, less traffic (I suppose) and quicker and better for other users of the dump too (there's usually a queue and by using the trailer I'm in and out much quicker as it's so much easier to unload and I'm only there once instead of 3 or 4 times).....

    AND, all of the waste I've ever taken to the dump on my trailer has ONLY been "domestic", i.e. garden waste and/or household furniture or whatever to dispose of, AND it has ONLY come from properties (I have a few) in the area that the "HRRC" serves and for which council tax has been not only paid but over paid since the council (like most, probably all, others in the UK also charges for "empty and unoccupied" properties that really should still be exempt as the whole point about c/tzx was it's supposed to pay for the services the residents are using and, quite obviously, when there are no residents nobody is using services .....and the "unfurnished" status of a property was originally only meant to demonstrate that nobody was living there - previously you only had to *say* nobody was living there but of course that got abused hence the need to start inspections to decide... it certainly isn't the furniture that is "using local services" other than perhaps the dump when thrown away!

    Anyhow, I almost never use my trailer anymore, which is a great shame, because they've made it so difficult and been so awkward, so instead I usually make multiple trips in my car which for some reason the council people seem to prefer.

    In summary: its household waste and c/tax has been paid not just in full but probably in excess during void periods. We should therefore be able to dispose of it at the dump as landlords since exactly the same items can be disposed of there by our tenants (if they wanted to or could be bothered) as they are the "residents".

    Incidentally, I once witnessed an argument between a handyman and the "job's worth" at the gate; apparently an elderly lady who was bed ridden had paid him to collect some items from her house to take to the dump for her but he wouldn't let him in because he was "trade". absurdly, he was telling him to take everything back to her and tell her she'd need to bring it herself (even though she couldn't even walk)! ....that's the sort of nonsense we're also dealing with her.

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    Think these rules are laid down by the Environment Agency and thus all councils have to adhere to them.

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    In my view the tip is indeed a taxpayer funded service. Most of us, whether deemed private or trade for tip purposes, are taxpayers. But that isn't the entire point ... to avoid fly tipping (both an eyesore and an expensive tax payer funded activity to later clean up) surely the tax payer is reasonably happy for even tax dodgers to be allowed to take their rubbish there. The mess left behind by those who have 'travelled' to a temporary location is an example but far more common is the cash in hand handyman, who will flytip if not allowed to go to the council dump free.

  • Brit Sixteen Sixty Four

    Surely HMOs are an investment or as many landlords call them a business. Its logical that they should pay and not hide behind a falsehood of domestic waste. Maybe the landlords could simply lend their trailers to the renters perhaps to do?

  • Jim Sykes

    Being a landlord be it HMO, simple BTL or any variant is a for-profit excercise, therefore commercial in nature. Completely agree with the local authority here. And that's almost a first!

  • David OConnor

    Simple. It is 'domestic waste' of the tenants and as a helpful landlord/friend you are helping them dispose the waste.
    Just make sure your tenancy agreement make in the responsible of the tenant to remove waste.
    Encourage the tenant to remove waste themselves and them you are only helping them if they can not for any reason do it themselves.

  • Jim Sykes

    Wouldn't apply to the communal areas necessarily.

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    And what happens to the waste that is taken to the 'recycle centre'? It is recycled. And that must surely bring in some funds for the council as they do not just go off and dump it at the local tip.

    Had a problem with my local one in that I was renovation my old Victorian house and the plaster was falling off the walls. Went along merrily to the place only to be told 'you can only bring 3 in number 25Kg bags of rubble per week'

    I used to live in a block of flats and the communal area was cleared out of everything (no recycle facilities available) without any argument or concern. The operatives just stated that this was normal at all communal refuse areas with blocks of flats.

    Now there is an idea.

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