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Householder unable to sell Cranbrook flat due to Covid is charged double council tax

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A daughter who has been trying to sell her late mother's home for two years has been hit with her council tax on the property doubling to £333 a month.

Lisa Estall, inherited a flat at Horsely Place in Cranbrook, when her mother died in June 2019. She's been trying to sell the property ever since probate was granted in October that year.

Horsely Place in Cranbrook
Horsely Place in Cranbrook

She said: "Horsely Place is purpose-built for retired people over 60 and most residents are elderly.

"When Covid struck, the place was in lockdown and it would have been impossible to show any potential buyers around, even if there had been any."

But she's been caught by a rule which doubles council tax on properties left vacant for more than two years.

The rule, which was introduced by the government in February 2019, is designed to help the housing shortage by encouraging property owners to return the estimated 200,000 empty homes across the county into beneficial use.

But Mrs Estall said she had not left the property empty deliberately.

She said: "We've had the property on the market for over two years and due to Covid-19 just not been able to sell. This has not been due to apathy on our part."

'It's like being charged for parking while you drive around looking for a space...'

She said: "It's currently listed with four agents."

Mrs Estall has also knocked £60,000 off the asking price. The two-bedroom first floor flats is now advertised at £320,000.

She said: "Until very recently, only carers and family have been able to access it, so we have not been able to offer any viewings.

"Until double vaccinations were achieved, old people have been terrified of coming into contact with the outside world for fear of contracting Covid, so we obviously haven't had any viewings."

Tunbridge Wells Borough Council said it was sympathetic to the specific difficulties of selling during Covid, but pointed out that some estate agents had continued to move properties using video viewings.

An advert for the property
An advert for the property

However, the council said it would give Mrs Estall an additional three-month grace period to cover the Covid lockdown, if she could prove the flat had been on the market during that period and would additionally start counting the two years from the date at which probate was granted.

Mrs Estall remained unhappy. She said: "This is a grossly unfair. It's like charging somebody for parking when they are driving round a multi-storey car park looking for a space!"

Horsley Place was constructed by McCarthy and Stone in 2015 and is purpose-built for retirement living, with a dedicated house manager on site.

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