24 February 2023

A prompt for precedence: Late evidence denied in council tax appeal

Alexandra Ottley Senior Associate

We all know the importance of providing evidence on time for it to be admissible - and a recent ruling for Luton Borough Council reminds us that this element of submission cannot be overstated.

Here’s what we can learn from Shah V Luton Borough Council.

The case

An appeal was lodged by a homeowner in June 2022 contesting a ruling that they were no longer liable for a council tax reduction on a property that they owned but didn’t live in. This is because they had recently moved their primary residence from a house in multiple occupation (HIMO) - that he also owned - into the residence in question, with his then-partner during early 2020.

As owner and now resident of the house, his council tax reduction was cancelled after a benefits fraud officer spoke to Shah’s ex-wife. She stated he had moved in with her at the disputed property and Shah did provide evidence to contest this in a timely manner.

While he did provide evidence, it was not taken into consideration and this decision was further upheld in the dismissal of his appeal.

Time to respond is crucial

By upholding the court’s initial ruling - based primarily on the lack of evidence submitted on time, which could prove Mr. Shah did not live at this new residence - an important precedent has been set.

This case clarifies in no uncertain terms that evidence, however compelling it may be, cannot be considered in a ruling if it is submitted late. If accepted, it would give the other party insufficient time to respond and would be seen as a bias of the system.

No reason to assume misdirection

This is exactly the logic which cost Mr. Shah his appeal and his council tax reduction.

It was stressed by the tribunal that finality in submitting relevant evidence was essential, and that there was no reason to question the judgement or the legal approach which preceded it.

Need help?

Contact Alexandra to discuss this further.

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