DAME Caroline Dinenage, Gosport’s MP, has claimed a key concession in the debate on the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill over council tax valuation of rooms in shared living accommodation.
She tabled an amendment, New Clause 7, to the Bill, with the aim of addressing increasingly common instances of council tax being placed on occupants of Homes of Multiple Occupancy – HMOs.
It was developed following information provided by local businessman Daryn Brewer, who is converting numerous empty shops on Gosport High Street into high quality shared living spaces, with independent shops occupying the lower floor and high-spec HMOs on the upper floors, with shared kitchen, laundry and workspaces.
Dame Caroline has been campaigning on this issue alongside Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt for two years. They have attended numerous meetings with government ministers.
During the Commons debate, she said: “There is a huge financial strain on people, often young professionals, at the very start of their careers, suddenly landed with a council tax bill of up to £1,000, even once they’ve allocated the single person discount.
“Shared housing is a core pillar of the housing sector. In 2018, HMOs provided 3 million sharers with rental accommodation across England and Wales. So this has the potential to become a major problem.
“Council tax is a property tax, it is not a head tax, and it should not be down to individuals who are simply paying for a bedroom to foot this bill.”
As a result of her amendment, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove, has written to confirm an accelerated consultation will now investigate how the Valuation Office Agency apply council tax bands, especially to HMOs.
He said in his letter to the Gosport MP: “You have very clearly set out concerns that the approach taken to the council tax banding of some properties could act as a deterrent to entering the HMO market, as well as causing financial hardship for tenants. In light of those points, I will consult on the way that HMOs are valued for council tax. This will allow us to ensure that HMOs are valued as a single dwelling, unless exceptional circumstances apply.”
Dehenna Davison, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Levelling-up responded in the debate, saying: “I am very grateful that we were able to reach a good position on this, and I look forward to working with her and her constituent Mr Brewer on the consultation and beyond to ensure we get this right.”
Afterwards, Dame Caroline said: “I’m delighted that we are finally making progress on this issue which is increasingly causing distress and concern to residents in shared living accommodation in our area. I look forward to working alongside the minister to ensure this is tackled once and for all.”
An HMO is a dwelling in which multiple residents reside with separate bedroom spaces, but a shared kitchen facility. There are increasingly instances of council tax being charged to individual residents, rather than the landlord of the house as a whole, with each living space being falsely counted as a separate dwelling.
The Gosport MP tabled New Clause 7 to ensure council tax is charged to the property as a whole, rather than issuing several unaffordable bills to individual occupants.