A man from Whitchurch claims he is £80,000 out of pocket and facing potential homelessness after Wrexham County Borough Council continued to charge business rates for a hotel that he had converted into his family home.
Mark Layder who lives at Redbrook Lodge, Whitchurch, had continued to pay hotel business rates for the premises in the name of his company Quality of Life Academy Limited even though Redbrook has not been a hotel since 2004, when his family moved in.
He has been challenging the decision since then and was advised to carry on paying until the case was resolved, with an appeal currently pending on the business rates valuation. However, 8 years on he is still waiting for answers.
Mr Layder had planned to use Redbrook Lodge as an educational centre and said he would be happy to pay the lower rates associated with such a premises, but said that he can no longer afford to pay hotel business rates.
In order to bring the matter to a conclusion he decided to stop paying the business rates.
As a result Wrexham Council called in the bailiffs, who he claims have visited his property more than 30 times and have threatened to repossess three cars, which are not associated with his company.
He said: “Redbrook Lodge has not been a hotel since we moved here in 2004, but we are still forced to pay business rates of £10,000 a year because the valuation agency said it has everything in it to be a hotel.
“My car has everything in it to be a taxi, but it isn’t one!”
“Like any decent taxpayer I carried on with the payments, expecting the appeal to be heard quickly, but when nothing happened – despite our continued attempts – I stopped.
“Instead of listening to us, Wrexham County Borough Council called in Excel Enforcement Bailiffs, who have illegally threatened to repossess our cars even though they have nothing to do with the limited company.
“As well as the financial problems, it’s caused me and my family considerable distress.”
Mr Layder said it has reached a point where his family are forced to live in the dark to hide from the bailiffs and his children have to ask permission to leave the house.
Wrexham Council has said that they have not received a payment from him since January 2008 and that they have followed the correct legal process.
Mark Owen, Head of Finance and Performance said: “Mr Layder and QOL Academy do have arrears of approximately £40,000 and the council have not received a statutory payment since January 2008. The council has given Mr Layder numerous opportunities to make reasonable payment and even placed a hold on his account to allow him to address the issues he has with the District Valuers Office.
“Unfortunately Mr Layder has been unable to resolve these issues.
“The council has followed the correct legal process in this matter and Mr Layder has been informed of this process every step of the way. This process culminated in the grant of a Liability Order from Wrexham Magistrates Court in February 2012.
“As Mr Layder did not follow advice given to him by the council following the granting of this order, his case was passed to the council’s bailiffs in April 2012 and they have conducted 3 visits since this date.
“Wrexham Council has a duty to all ratepayers to ensure that domestic and non-domestic rates are paid in line with statutory provisions.”
The family have now put Redbrook Lodge up for sale, in an attempt to recoup some of the money Wrexham Council claims they are owed.
However, they say it will cost the council far more to repossess the property and find a new home for them.
Mark Layder said: “This could have been settled years ago; all they had to do was offer us a reduced business rate, as Redbrook Lodge is an educational establishment.
“If we can’t sort this out, we will lose our home and the council will have to re-house us, which will cost them far more than they stand to gain and a building which could be a real asset to the area will stand empty and fall into disrepair.”