I WAS dismayed to discover that local authorities in Scotland are routinely charging council tax on residential properties that are uninhabitable. I understand CT to be charged on dwellings which benefit from the services and amenities that local authorities provide, and thought it followed that if a dwelling was uninhabitable, it would be outside the scope of the tax.

This case involved a 100-year-old property in the Scottish Borders, which was acquired by a young couple, as their first rung on the property ladder. The property had been empty for 11 years before purchase. At that time, the building had partially collapsed, and in general was not wind and watertight. The downstairs flooring was rotten and unsafe, and both staircases had collapsed. The plumbing, electrical wiring, and all window and door frames were beyond repair. Nevertheless, the Assessor successfully argued that the property was a dwelling, and within the charge to council tax. In effect a property is a dwelling, even when it cannot be dwelled in?

I am a retired tax professional, and the couple appointed me as their agent to act on their behalf. I sought to appeal the decision on the basis that the property had ceased to be a dwelling before its purchase. I was informed that I could not proceed without a lawyer who could argue before the Court of Session. The cost of such an appeal was estimated at £20,000, with the possibility of costs being awarded against us. Basically a test case is required to establish exactly under what circumstances a dwelling ceases to be a dwelling, but the cost far outweighs the council tax liability at stake.

The imposition of council tax in these circumstances acts as a disincentive for such properties being restored to the housing stock. It also falsely inflates that stock by including properties on the Valuation Roll that cannot be lived in, and it adds to the problem of rural depopulation. Rather than offering grants to incentivise the right behaviour, we have the total opposite.

If we really all want a fairer society, this absurdity surely should be prominent on our “to-do” list. This letter simply seeks to highlight the issue and its extent. If indeed it is widespread, is there then any interest in helping fund a test case?

Gerry McCann, Greenlaw, Berwickshire.