Portsmouth's HMOs are in the firing line again as growing numbers are being referred to the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) to have their council tax bands reassessed.
Rather than paying tax on the whole property, each room can be classified as a band A at a cost of �1,200, with tenants able to apply for a 25% single-person discount, taking the bill to �900 for each resident.
Tenants have even been charged back-dated council tax, meaning that some owe more than �3,000 without even realising, particularly if they've already moved out, according to the Portsmouth & District Private Landlords Association.
Although the practice was brought in to deal with commercial units being converted into residential properties, chairman Martin Silman suspects the council is referring each HMO that comes through its planning system. He says at last 12 members have been recently affected, as well as a local councillor who lives in an HMO.
'A member was told by the VOA that it was getting a lot more referrals than anywhere else in the country, so we've put in a Freedom of Information request as we're hoping to get some answers,'� Silman (pictured) tells LandlordZONE.
"Unfortunately, tenants will end up footing the bill, pushing up the lowest rents in the city which in turn will push all the city's rents up, along with house prices.'�
Chris Ward, Portsmouth Council's director of finance, says he recognises landlords' concerns and that the council is not deliberately seeking to '�disaggregate' council tax bills for HMOs.
He tells The News: 'The council has no role in determining the council tax band of properties in the city, or when any changes should be effective from. This is the responsibility of the Valuation Office Agency which then informs the council. We are then obliged to bill the council taxpayer from that date.'�
This summer, the city has been consulting on plans to introduce additional licensing for smaller HMOs which the landlord group believes will drive more out of the market, push rents up and create homelessness.