Powers of Entry

March 3rd, 2015

The draft Council Tax and Non-Domestic Rating (Powers of Entry: Safeguards) (England) Order 2015 amends the statutory powers of entry contained in the Local Government Finance Act 1988 (“the 1988 Act”) and the Local Government Finance Act 1992 (“the 1992 Act”) to insert a requirement to obtain authorisation from the First-tier Tribunal prior to exercising the powers.  In addition, it makes amendments to the notice period in the 1988 Act and the fine level in the 1992 Act.

Section 42 of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 (“the 2012 Act”) imposes a duty on Cabinet Ministers to review powers of entry for which they are responsible within two years of the passing of that Act. This review is required to be undertaken with a view to Ministers deciding whether to make an Order under section 39(1), 40 or 41 of that Act repealing, rewriting or adding safeguards to those powers.  CLG conducted the required review of its powers of entry and published it on 27 November 2014. As part of the review, two powers were identified in relation to which it was proposed that safeguards be added under sections 40 and 41 of the 2012 Act. Those powers are contained in paragraph 7 of Schedule 9 to the 1988 Act and section 26 of the 1992 Act.

Paragraph 7 of Schedule 9 to the 1988 Act confers a power for a valuation officer of the Valuation Office Agency to enter on, survey and value a hereditament on giving 24 hours’ notice in writing for the purpose of valuing a property for non-domestic rating. A person wilfully delaying or obstructing an officer in the use of the power is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 1 on the standard scale.

Section 26 of the 1992 Act contains a similar power in relation to domestic properties for the purpose of council tax banding. However, the required notice period in that case is 3 working days, and the fine for obstructing an officer in the exercise of the power is set at level 2 on the standard scale.

Paragraph 7 of Schedule 9 to the 1988 Act and Section 26 of the 1992 Act are being amended to provide for the following:

a. That where consent to enter is not given, the Valuation Office Agency’s Listing Officers and Valuation Officers will be required to seek the authority of the First-tier Tribunal to exercise their statutory entry power, under which the property’s occupier can be fined if successfully prosecuted for obstructing a Valuation Office Agency Officer in the exercise of the power.

b. That the fine level for council tax is reduced and is aligned with business rates to level 1 of the standard scale (currently £200).

c. That the written notice period sent by the Listing Officers and Valuation Officers in advance of a visit to council taxpayers and business ratepayers following First-tier Tribunal authorisation is three working days.

 

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