Charitable Exemption

March 3rd, 2015 by James Goudie KC

Ealing LBC, Kensington RLBC & Hammersmith and Fulham LBC v Notting Hill Housing Trust and A2 Dominion Housing Group Ltd [2015] EWHC 161 (Admin) were appeals by the three local authorities to the High Court from the President of the Valuation Tribunal.  The respondents were two registered providers of social housing with charitable status.  The appeals concerned the application of an exemption from council tax contained in the Council Tax (Exempt Dwellings) Order 1992, SI 1992/558, as amended: “a dwelling owned by a body established for charitable purposes only, which is unoccupied and has been so for a period of less than six months and was last occupied in furtherance of the objects of the charity”.  The exemption thus consists of four conditions or requirements, (1) the dwelling must be owned by the body in question, (2) the body must be established for charitable purposes only, (3) the dwelling must have been unoccupied for a period of less than six months, and (4) the last occupation must have been in furtherance of the objects of the charity.  Mostyn J held that the charity that seeks the exemption has the burden of establishing all four conditions for the grant of the exemption.

Vis-à-vis charitable social housing providers there is no presumption that conditions (2) and (4) are satisfied. There is no reversal of the normal burden of proof.  Mostyn J added (para 19):

“In my judgment a short written representation by the applicant (which might usefully be done on some kind of standard form) which addresses all four conditions directly and which states (a) that based on the material held by the applicant the conditions are met and (b) that the statement is true to the belief of the representor, should normally be enough.”

Mostyn J added (para 37):

“… the Secretary of State should consider promulgating a revision to the … exemption which provides for a presumption in relation to condition (iv) where the application is made by a charitable social housing provider.”

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