Are you due a refund of hundreds of pounds on your council tax?

Households are braced for a rise in council tax bills of 5 per cent next month, but you can reduce the financial pain in unexpected ways. 

Those planning to go abroad for several months, undertake major property renovations, or have suffered major road works outside their home might all be able to claim a rebate.

Households can also check to see if their property is correctly priced – as council tax rates are based on flawed valuations made almost three decades ago. A ‘rebanding’ may result in a bill reduction.

Property band assessments are based on a home’s size, layout, location and any change in use

As a result of changes two years ago, Scotland’s bands are considered more accurate as are those for Wales where there is an additional band I for properties valued at more than £424,000 in 2003.

Property band assessments are based on a home’s size, layout, location and any change in use. So if you have demolished part of your property or it has been split up into flats in the past three decades this could also change the value. 

Even changes outside the home – such as a main road being built that goes past your doorstep – can adversely affect the value of your home and lower the council tax band.

You can check which band you are in using the Government’s Valuation Office Agency website if you live in England and Wales, while for Scotland it is the Scottish Assessors Association. Just tap in your postcode and find the address. 

Six ways to get your council tax cut

Check your home is not overvalued. If you think it is, ask for it to be rebanded. If you are the only adult in the home ensure you get a 25 per cent reduction. Students, apprentices, live-in carers and those with mental disabilities do not count in determining council tax bills. If your property is left vacant and unfurnished for a month or more then you might be able to get a discount. Those on low incomes or claiming benefits – such as a disability allowance – should get a 25 per cent bill reduction. Assess whether any structural changes to the home or surrounding area in the past 30 years have adversely affected the property’s value, qualifying you for a lower bill.

Look at similar properties on your street and if you find you are in a higher band than a neighbour it might be worth appealing. Do this through either the Valuation Office Agency or Scottish Assessors Association.

In the past decade, more than 400,000 homes benefited from re-evaluations. Yet while you could save hundreds of pounds a year, you might instead find nearby homes have bands bumped up to put them in line with yours. Use a house price calculator as offered by websites including Zoopla, Rightmove and Nethouseprices as a gauge before seeking a review.

If you fail to get your property band lowered you can appeal to the independent Valuation Tribunal Service within 90 days of the decision. Martin Lane, of consumer website, says: ‘Do your homework before challenging a tax band to ensure there is no risk of you being moved into a more expensive bracket.’

If you are the only adult living in a home – perhaps because of a partner dying – you can get a 25 per cent bill reduction. Those aged under 18 are not included in council tax calculations, nor are students in full-time education – those studying on a course at least 21 hours every week – even if they are of adult age.

Others that do not count as an adult for calculation purposes include people on apprentice schemes, student nurses, live-in carers, those with severe mental impairment and foreign diplomats.

You get a 50 per cent discount if no one living in your home, including you, counts as an adult. Those on a low income or claiming benefits – such as disability allowance – might also be eligible for a reduced council tax bill. If someone has learning difficulties or mobility issues, you might expect to receive a 25 per cent bill reduction.

If you sell an empty property on behalf of a dead owner you will not have to pay council tax until six months after you get probate.

Local councils are desperate for your money. They often try to get you to pay in ten monthly instalments rather than 12. An up-front payment may secure you a discount. Ask about the options.