A LANDOWNER has won a 16-month battle against paying council tax on a property banned from residential use.
John Perry, 65, of Fambridge Road, Maldon, has been fighting Maldon District Council's demands for £898 council tax per year.
He bought the barn, also in Fambridge Road, in 2010 and started renting it out to his friends, the Thurgood family.
But because the property had been converted from an agricultural barn to a home without planning permission prior to Mr Perry purchasing it, the council ruled that the Thurgoods must be evicted in October 2011.
Since then, despite the council saying the barn is uninhabitable, they have been trying to charge Mr Perry council tax.
"They said the rating is so low because no one is living there – a great statement that was," said retired Mr Perry.
After being summoned to court three times, the third time Mr Perry enlisted the help of Elwell Taylor, a property company that deals with ratings and council tax advice.
"The council was insisting I pay rates, and I needed a professional to handle it," said Mr Perry, whose legal fees were beginning to soar.
And since he got help, the case against Mr Perry was dropped.
"The council have just sent me a statement, nobody has signed it and there is nobody's name on it, saying that I don't have to pay rates until 2099.
"I have had to really fight for that."
And while Mr Perry is relieved, he feels the council have treated him and the family of six they evicted unfairly.
If it can be proved somebody has lived in a building for four years continuously, the council will give permission to live there.
But Maldon Council did not believe previous owner Tony Anderson had been living in the converted barn since 2004 and the Thurgoods were evicted.
"That sort of money is hanging over you all the time," added Mr Perry.
"They are wanting £80 a month for something they have said nobody's allowed to live in."
"If they had won I would have had to pay the rates from 16 months ago. They put real pressure on you."
A spokesperson for the council said: "Legislation requires us to bill and collect council tax where a property is listed in the council tax valuation list, making reasonable assumptions regarding any entitlement to a reduction.
"Where information is provided to the council which suggests that the bill should be amended, the council tax account will be reviewed and where appropriate an adjusted bill will be issued.
"Whilst a council tax account is under review payment is still legally due based upon the original bill."