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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

Letting agent falsified tenancies in bid to dodge council tax

A director of a lettings agency has been fined for creating false tenancies in a bid to avoid paying council tax on empty properties.

Satinderjit Singh Thiara of Telford appeared before the city’s magistrates court where he pleaded guilty to three counts of submitting false tenancy agreements contrary to the Fraud Act 2006.

The court was told in July 2018, Singh - one of the owners of First 4 Let (Telford) Ltd - produced two false tenancy documents for a property in the town. 

One document was for a tenant who had left, the other for someone who didn’t exist. 

He also submitted a 12 month tenancy agreement for a property in the name of a couple after they had left following the end of their tenancy.

By creating the false tenancy agreements, Singh made the people who were illegally named in the documents liable for council tax that he should have paid. The court heard Singh’s actions caused distress to individuals who he tried to make liable for his debts

He was fined £1,000, ordered to pay £2,183 costs and a £100 victim surcharge.

A council spokesman says: “Council tax evasion is very serious. Let this be a warning to anyone else thinking of doing it in the future.”

  • Barry X

    Although what he did was wrong - fraud always is - there is a deeper underlying problem here..... originally, in 1992 when Council Tax came into existence, c/tax was supposed to be used to collect money to pay for the services used by the people living in the property.

    There was originally a complete exemption (with no time limit) for unoccupied properties. That was fair and reasonable and in line with the stated purpose of the tax.

    Then a time limit was set - initially one year I think, although it may have been two years to start with then reduced to one, I can't remember that detail.

    Then councils found people were exploiting the loophole and claiming properties were unoccupied when they weren't so - not unreasonable - councils started to employ inspectors to visit and check that properties really were unoccupied and showed no evidence of current residential use (storage of furniture was for a while allowed).

    Then properties had to be completely unfurnished as well as unoccupied.... that was fine and I think perfectly fair.

    But then - in recent years - things took a turn for the worse..... the one year "empty and unoccupied" exemption was reduced to 6 months, then for a very short period only two weeks, then abolished altogether!

    Our local council undertook a completely token, bogus "consultation exercise" in which selected people, including me, were sent relatively long, detailed questionnaires full of emotive and carefully rigged questions such as:

    "Do you agree that landlords have a duty to contribute more to help the poorest people in society?" (to which I replied "no" as that's not every landlord's job or responsibility), and

    "How much more do you believe landlord's should contribute from their profits to support local homeless projects and other important council-led initiatives for their communities?" (to which I replied "Nothing", which I had to carefully write by hand as it was a multiple choice question with boxes to tick that all had positive integer percentages in them and there wasn't one with "nil" or a 0% available to tick).....

    ...anyhow, as you would expect (if like me you've become increasingly cynical after observing and enduring decades of council and governmental deceit and lies) they completely ignored ALL responses, probably not even bothering to look at them, as it was only a box-ticking exercise for them to say they'd done it. As an invited participant I imagined (wrongly) they might be willing to provide me with a report setting out the findings of their "consultation exercise" but it turned out that:

    (a) there was no such analysis or report available, or probably even produced, and

    (b) they CLAIMED there had been an "overwhelming" response of "huge support" for the idea that Landlords should pay an awful lot more to support all and any council project "for their local communities", including (perhaps) for the "homeless" and "less well off".

    I put "homeless" in quotes because I've learned over the years that councils, as well as most charities that you'd expect to be more honest, have strange and unexpected definitions of homelessness;
    Whereas my definition of homelessness is when someone has no home and is living either on the streets or perhaps in derelict buildings or something,

    THEIR definition (the council's and many charities') includes - for example - people living perfectly safely and relatively comfortably in a normal house with other people (perhaps members of their own family, or extended family) but they are apparently "homeless" simply because they'd ideally like a place of their own, and where they are currently living is deemed "unsuitable" even though really its fine, and they'd preferably like to be allocated (given) somewhere that's at least partially (if not completely) at the council's , i.e. our, expense!

    (Note however that for reasons never explained - nobody dares - I've found that quite often white people, especially over the age of 40, and particularly if male and for example ex-soldiers with PTSD after having fought somewhere or other for our country, are for some reason usually not included because they are apparently of no concern or interest to the relevant people at the council).

    There are even more surprising categories of people included by some charities and councils in their lists and stats of "homeless" people, e.g. people who have recently come to this county as "migrants" and have not yet established any actual right to be in the county or got around to bringing their families over yet - they are often prioritised as being "especially vulnerable", are usually assumed to be teenagers even if clearly they are in their 30s or even sometimes 40s, are perhaps told what nationality (and other "facts") to claim so as best help them up the ladder, and are then bumped right up the "housing list"... and THAT'S no doubt among the sort of things councils tell landlords (like me) that we have expressed an "overwhelming" desire to contribute even more of our "profits" to support!

    Anyhow, getting back to the evolution of the problem that Mr Satinderjit Singh Thiara of Telford had found his own somewhat dishonest solution for......

    Apart from completely phasing out the "empty and unoccupied" exemption for c/tax, while still giving a 25% discount for "single occupancy" (so we have the curious anomaly that if nobody is living there, the then empty property must pay more for the services it has no occupants to use than would a property that DOES have someone - a single person as is increasingly common - living in it and using services, presumably at least bin collections if nothing else)....

    ...apart from all that..... there's ALSO now for some time been the totally amazing twisted logic by councils, that most landlord are still unaware of, by which they feel at liberty to charge a **SURCHARGE** for "long term empty" properties, it's currently typically 50% for properties empty for more than a year, but set to become 100% for more than a year and a new "surcharge" of 50% likely to be quietly brought in for "long term" emptiness of 6 months or more.... and then one day, before we know it, the moment a tenant moves out and the property is unoccupied there will be a "surcharge" and they will quietly drop the two words "long term" from the description on their paperwork/websites for this surcharge.....

    and the reason or justification for this surcharge? Well isn't it obvious? It's to "encourage landlords to bring unused properties back into use"! Duh!!! you might guess the council has never realised we like income from our properties and would not normally voluntarily want to keep a property empty and unoccupied for months on end unless there is some special reason to do so or major problem (such as the property is unsafe or unfit for habitation or due on some random date to be demolished and redeveloped or whatever).... anyhow, think about it and be warned.... in realities councils LOVE us to have unused properties because (a) there is nobody living in them using their services, and (b) they can tax us more and more for less and less while "virtue signalling" about their bogus intentions to encourage us to "bring properties back into use" - we, the horrible landlords purposely owning properties to stop people living in them!

    Given all that, no wonder there's an incentive at times for people to pretend there is someone living in the properties....

    .....except I do understand (before anyone thinks otherwise) that in the case reported in this article he was trying to claim - it seems - that other people (who had moved elsewhere) were still responsible for paying. If he'd been smarter perhaps he would have made up names of single people living there, paid 75% of the tax and at least made a 25% saving that probably nobody would ever have noticed.... greed and trying too hard seem to have been his undoing!

    And please remember my opening comments - I am NOT condoning what he did, it was fraudulent and unlawful - I'm only trying to show some of the motivation, and provocation behind them, for people to end up doing these things.... my main point is that:

    **NO** COUNCIL TAX SHOULD BE DUE ANYHOW ON UNOCCUPIED PROPERTIES!!! If there was nothing to pay (as used to be the case) then there would be no tax to evade!

    It's really the greedy councils exploiting "sitting duck" landlords, not the small number of criminally minded agents out there, that have created this problem.

    Rant over - I'll make myself another coffee now and while doing so try to remember to "Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise"..... :)

  • icon

    The argument about Council Tax is a separate one altogether.

    There is a person committing outright blatant FRAUD and has received derisory lenient punishment.

    This does Not benefit the image and reputation of the vast majority of the PRS who do Not commit such offences.

    Barry X

    I don't see how my points about c/tax can be "separate altogether".... IF we were still able to claim the exemption for empty and unoccupied properties (as we always used to be until council started getting so strapped for cash they began looking for more and more soft targets - like landlords and/or agents, in fact - to take it from) THEN he would not have been tempted to try and make it look like someone else's liability to pay it as THERE WOULD BE NOTHING TO PAY ANYHOW!

     
  • icon

    Councils thieving money from us. No excuse thats what they do. 100% CT for empty property whilst being refurbed due to last tenant trashing only 75% CT for single person. Council thieving every single day.

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