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This isn't over, vows rates row man as judge orders him to pay £1,500

By Ivan Little

Published 10/09/2016

Walter Graham outside court
Walter Graham outside court

A homeowner who has been waging a one-man campaign against the doubling of domestic rates on his property has lost the first round of his legal battle.

Downpatrick man Walter Graham, a former New York graphic designer who has been involved in a long-running row with Land and Property Services (LPS), went to court this week to contest the charges.

However, a District Judge issued a decree ordering him to pay more than £1,500.

Afterwards, Mr Graham, a part-time artist whose property sits in the shadow of the Mourne Mountains, said he may take the case to a higher court.

The former graphic designer, who completely renovated a run-down farmhouse 25 years ago after moving back to Northern Ireland, where he was born, has for some time been demanding an explanation for the twofold increase in his rates.

The father-of-two explained that he wanted to see the means by which LPS had arrived at the figure charged to him.

He said it was wrong for the bill to be calculated on the LPS assessment of the value of his house in January 2005 - the height of the property boom.

Mr Graham also claimed that he had been told that the rates bill would never be reduced, even now that the market price of his house has been slashed thanks to the property crash.

He said that he had told the authorities he was willing to pay his money on receipt of an itemised invoice, but in January he was informed that he would have to go to court.

However, on arrival in court, Mr Graham was told that LPS had withdrawn all its claims against him.

However, his current rates demand contained the previous year's bill too, and on Monday his case was heard at Downpatrick Magistrates' Court, where Mr Graham, who represented himself, said he had no case to answer and asked to be tried by a jury at a higher court.

He also claimed the court had no jurisdiction and handed in a three-page affidavit setting out his reasons for disputing the bill and the legal proceedings.

Despite that, the homeowner was ordered to pay up.

A statement from the Northern Ireland Court and Tribunal Service said: "At the hearing on September 5 at Downpatrick Magistrates' Court, Mr Graham indicated to the court that there was no jurisdiction.

"However, the District Judge refuted this and ordered a decree in the amount of £1,588.81 plus costs"

Mr Graham said he was awaiting written confirmation of the decision before deciding what to do next.

"I'm considering taking it to the next level," he added.

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