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Belfast man overcharged for rates for 27 years won't get full refund

By Adrian Rutherford

Published 07/10/2015

David Barr
David Barr
David Barr's home in east Belfast

A homeowner has hit out after it emerged he had been overpaying his rates for 27 years but will only get some of the money returned.

David Barr realised he was being charged too much after speaking to a neighbour.

He said it took several letters and phone calls to Land & Property Services (LPS) before the agency admitted its mistake.

But he was stunned when he received a letter saying any refund would only be backdated to April 2007.

That is despite him being overcharged since moving into his home at Elsmere Park in east Belfast two decades earlier.

Mr Barr said: "It is incredible - you have a Government department that admits it has made a mistake but won't refund the money.

"If I had been underpaying my rates for 27 years, would they accept an eight-year settlement? I don't believe they would."

Mr Barr is unsure exactly how much he is owed.

He said that in the current year the difference between what he was charged and what he should have paid was £71.

"It isn't necessarily the money, it's the principle," he added.

Mr Barr said he had recently paid £5,000 to have the sight of his beloved dog Molly restored, and wanted to use the refund to help pay the costs.

A domestic rate bill is calculated by multiplying the rateable valuation of someone's home by the domestic rate set by their local council.

In Mr Barr's case, officials had overestimated what his home was worth.

"I just assumed they had got it right until I had a casual conversation with my neighbour and realised that I had been overpaying my rates for 27 years," he said. "It took me four goes for LPS to admit their error.

"They refused to revalue my property, even though I told them that my house is exactly the same as the one next door.

"Then, after I'd pestered them a bit, a very nice gentleman came out and measured up to find out that, in fact, it was the same as my neighbour's house.

"Eventually I got a letter to say they had revalued my house and it was £10,000 less than its value a month ago."

LPS had tried to justify the disparity by wrongly claiming that his neighbours didn't have a garage.

When Mr Barr pointed out that this was incorrect, an official was out within a week to revalue their home.

"They told me one reason my house was more expensive was because my neighbours didn't have a garage," he explained.

"But we're identical houses -in every sense. I told them that I was standing looking at my neighbour's garage.

"They actually sent someone out to revalue their house.

"Yet they leave me waiting, then they won't give me the money they have been wrongly charging me for 27 years.

"I don't think I've been fairly dealt with.

"Why should I overpay for 19 years and not get a refund?"

Land & Property Services did not respond to a request for comment.

Belfast Telegraph

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