House blaze couple’s anger over Melton Borough Council Tax Bill

Richard Watkin, in his severely-damaged Bottesford home EMN-190306-174504001
Richard Watkin, in his severely-damaged Bottesford home EMN-190306-174504001
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A couple who suffered the trauma of having their home almost destroyed by fire are angry they are being charged Council Tax on it for the year it will take to make it habitable again.

Richard and Clara Watkin have been renting a property round the corner from their Bottesford house since the blaze, which broke out on April 25.

Outside their severely damaged Bottesford home, Richard Watkin, with pet Dillon, who was rescued by a neighbour after it caught fire EMN-190306-174442001

Outside their severely damaged Bottesford home, Richard Watkin, with pet Dillon, who was rescued by a neighbour after it caught fire EMN-190306-174442001

They have been told it will be 12 months before they can move back home, with severe damage having been caused to the roof.

And they were shocked to be told by Melton Borough Council that they would still be liable to pay the annual £2,400 Council Tax on the fire-ravaged High Street property while it is being renovated.

This is on top of the tax they are already stumping up for the rented house.

Mr Watkin told the Melton Times: “I was shocked to hear that we still had to pay Council Tax on the house.

“I understand that if you go to prison you don’t pay it but if your house catches fire you do, which doesn’t seem fair at all.”

Four fire crews battled with the blaze back in April and the couple’s beloved dog, Dillon, had to be rescued by a neighbour before the firefighters arrived on the scene.

Mr Watkin added: “It feels like a kick in the teeth to be charged Council Tax after what we’ve been through.

“We lost 80 per cent of the roof in the fire and the house has smoke and fire damage throughout.

“There is no way anyone could live in it, and it’s going to take another year before we can go back to live there.”

A spokesperson for Melton Council said: “From April 1, 2019, once a property becomes unoccupied and remains substantially unfurnished then a 100 per cent charge is levied against the person entitled to possession.

“However, Melton Borough Council can apply a discretionary 50 per cent Council Tax discount to properties for up to 12 months from the date the work starts.

“In the case of fire damage, repair work can be deemed to have started at the point where the ‘drying out’ process begins as a result of the fire being extinguished.

“An application form is available to apply for a 50 per cent discount on the Council Tax from the council.”