Couple forced to live in a ruin

Phil Leyland of Liverpool Road, Pewfall, near Ashton, in his house which he is in the process of renovating

Phil Leyland of Liverpool Road, Pewfall, near Ashton, in his house which he is in the process of renovating

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A WIGAN couple say they are being forced to sleep in their kitchen to avoid paying double council tax.

For the last year Philip Leyland, 46, his partner, Dorothy, and their dog, Jess, have lived in a caravan in the back garden of their home.

Throughout that time they were exempt from paying council tax on the house on the grounds that it needed so much work doing to it that it was deemed “uninhabitable.”

That exemption has now run out with restoration work nowhere near complete and the council is legally bound not to renew the agreement.

So now, in order to avoid paying a levy on both the mobile home and the property, the Leylands have had to strip the caravan bare and set up home in the kitchen of their dilapidated house.

Mr Leyland said: “I feel as if the council are forcing me to smash the caravan up just to satisfy the tax inspectors. We don’t mind paying council tax, but we can’t afford to pay double council tax.

“What annoys me most, though, is that this has only come about because we’ve been honest with them from the start. Maybe we’ve been too honest?

“The house is more than 100 years old and has got no flooring or proper ceilings. We knew it needed work when we bought it but only realised how much when we moved in.

“We’ve had no choice but to bed down in the kitchen since stripping out the caravan. We can’t go on like this.”

Mr Leyland was granted 12 months’ council tax exemption on his house on Liverpool Road in Pewfall, near Ashton, after it was deemed uninhabitable because of rotting floorboards, a lack of insulation and a leaking roof.

But he subsequently received a letter from St Helens Council saying that the exemption had now run out.

Mr Leyland added: “Obviously, we need to put all our resources into doing the house up now, but we won’t be able to do that if we have to pay two sets of council tax. The house hasn’t changed since it was inspected last year so I don’t understand how we can be exempt from council tax one minute and then have to pay it the next.”

A spokesman for St Helens Council said: “Unfortunately government legislation only allows local authorities to grant council tax exemptions for a maximum of 12 months.

“After that, the full rate has to be applied.”