Council Tax

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Introduction

The council tax system was first launched in 1991 because the Government needed every property in the land to be put in a valuation band. Primarily, because the time was short people looked to estate agents to help them valuate their homes known as “second-hear valuations”. After many years passed there were still no accurate valuations done on homes in England and Scotland whereas the Welsh government reassessed all the home. This caused problems because people on in the same types of properties ended up paying either much more or less than their neighbours.

The council tax cashback systems in 2017 it hit the headlines of national papers. The Government’s Valuation Office Agency website, which is a key part of the technique, crashed for a week under the traffic. It is projected that over three million people have now tried this system, and the successes have been colossal. In 2008 the Conservative Party said it believed 400,000 homes were in the wrong bands and in May 2009 the Telegraph suggested over 130,000 had had their band lowered.

Reclaim steps

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  1. Initially check your band, and then your neighbours’. Make sure the properties are as close as possible in size and value. Sadly, the large size of the database means a few properties are missed off it. If that happens, either speak to your neighbours directly or contact the council and ask why. If neighbours in similar properties are in a lower band than you, then you may have a claim (though it may just mean that they’re all in the wrong band). This is all done by the VOA (Valuation Office Agency).
  2. A second crucial step is to estimate what your house was worth in 1991 (when and how the council tax bands were defined). This CAN’T be used as evidence if you challenge your band. But it enables you to check out various house prices on your street and it’s an important test that you’re on the right track if you do decide to challenge.
  3. At this point, we need to throw in a serious warning. Challenging your band is not something to do speculatively without the checks, for one simple reason: It’s even possible that your neighbours’ band could be increased, although this is rare.
  4. If you’re convinced your property band’s unfair, it’s time to challenge it. If you’re in England, Gov.uk helps explain how to go about challenging your council tax band. You can either contact the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) directly at which point you’ll be told how your band was decided, and have the opportunity to explain why you believe it is wrong and how it should be altered.

Experian CreditExpert ID Fraud Insurance Reclaim:

  • CreditExpert – a subscription service offered by Experian – rocketed in price in January 2011 from a costly £7.99 to an outrageous £14.99 – totalling to £180 a year. Part of this was automatically including a mostly unnecessary identity fraud expenses insurance product.
  • Experian offered the CreditExpert bundle on a free 30-day trial after which customers were automatically opted in to the service. This included the insurance, which technically was a separate product to the credit rating service, and like all insurance services, people should have been given a clear opportunity to reject it – yet that was buried in the small print.
  • To this Experian responded: “We highly value our customers and their views and will always look to resolve issues where we can. We have received a small number of individual complaints relating to a previous version of our CreditExpert product, which we are working with each customer to resolve on a case by case basis.”

Claiming:

  • Despite the cover costing £6.40, in all the cases we’ve seen Experian has offered users £5 back per month, claiming this is the wholesale value of the product – the same figure the Ombudsman suggested be paid in its initial ruling (which Experian didn’t argue with). This is because while the product was on sale it was possible to call up and cancel the add-on and pay £9.99, lowering the overall cost by £5. It has also added 8% statutory (not compounded) interest on the amount. This is the amount a court would award if it had to adjudicate. It’s assumed that – if you had kept the money – you may have been able to earn interest on it.
  • The ID fraud expenses insurance was bundled with CreditExpert between January 2011 and July 2014. If you subscribed to the product between these dates you would have been forking out £77 a year for ID fraud expenses insurance. After July 2014 the product was scrapped and a new one, without the insurance add-on, was launched, priced at £14.99 which is the amount it currently costs. If you had ID fraud insurance with your CreditExpert product, the quickest way to contact it is simply to pick up the phone, call it and ask for your cash back. If you’re not confident on the phone – or if you’ve called and spoken to it without success – you can also reclaim online.

Reclaim Packaged Bank Account Fees

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  • Packaged accounts can be excellent, but they can also be impractical. These accounts are where you pay a monthly fee for your account in return for benefits; most often bundled insurance policies. If you’ve chosen one based on a rational verdict, it’s probably a worthy account as they can be the inexpensive way to get numerous types of insurance.
  • If you don’t require the insurance, then packaged accounts aren’t right for you. If you do, it’s all about whether it’s cheaper to buy the insurance elsewhere. Don’t think £15 a month, think £180 a year; so always multiply the monthly cost by 12 to get the cost per year as the way to compare insurance costs to see if it’s worth it. If you’ve got a useless packaged account, cancel it to stop the rot and ask to switch to a fee-free account. Don’t worry if you were mis-sold, you can still reclaim if you do this.

Check list:

  1. You were wrongly told you had to get it, eg, to get a mortgage.
  2. You were too old for the insurance.
  3. You were misled into taking out the account
  4. It hiked the price and didn’t tell you
  5. The fee was added without your knowledge
  6. You tried to cancel but were forced to keep it
  7. You were told it was the only way to get an overdraft
  8. No-one mentioned you needed to register your phone/car
  9. You were told having one would improve your credit score
  • If you’re mis-sold you should get the fees you paid back, plus interest. So quite simply, if you paid £15/month for two years you should get £360 back (£15 x 24 months) plus interest.
  • But be prepared for a fight. We’ve seen some banks just change the insurance, so customers become eligible, as a way of appeasing complainers. But that doesn’t change the fact that you were still paying for useless cover, so hammer home that you want ALL your fees back.

It’s crucial to not forget to keep things short

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