Residents of pyrite-damaged homes sent backdated LPT bills

Property owners say they were assured by Revenue their homes were exempt

Revenue says any  remedial works carried out before exemptions were introduced in 2013 are not exempt. Photograph: Joe St Leger

Revenue says any remedial works carried out before exemptions were introduced in 2013 are not exempt. Photograph: Joe St Leger

 

Residents of a Dublin housing estate badly affected by pyrite have received backdated local property tax (LPT) bills even though they say they were told they would be exempt. Tayleurs Point, a development of more than 100 homes in Rush, Co Dublin, underwent highly disruptive remedial works, beginning in 2010 and requiring residents to move out for a number of months.

In May 2013, the government introduced legislation temporarily exempting pyrite hit homes from LPT where sufficient documentary evidence of the problem was produced.

For the last three years, many of the residents in Tayleurs Point submitted engineering reports and other documentation before claiming the exemption. They say they checked their eligibility with Revenue and were informally advised they did not have to pay the tax. Earlier this month, however, Revenue sent them backdated bills for three years of unpaid LPT which must be met within 28 days of receipt or be taken from their wages.

It followed a review of the claims which were found not to have qualified because the remedial works were carried out before the introduction of the 2013 regulations. While some property owners had paid the tax, it is believed a significant number had pursued the exemption. Residents had also paid up to €5,000 each for pyrite testing on their homes which they never got back. These costs were covered by the State in subsequent cases.

One of those affected, Emily McElarney, said: “We are being penalised of the fact that we got our pyrite sorted out ourselves instead of waiting for the State to get its act together and sort it out. “We asked [Revenue] at least four times, always on the phone, and we asked for it in writing, and they said ‘don’t worry, you’re exempt’.”

Another resident, Niall Toolan, said he had applied for his exemptions through the Revenue website. “Every single time I went online to do it, it said this property is exempt. When we got the exemption we thought finally, something is going our way and then it’s taken away. It’s left a really bitter taste in our mouth.”

While declining to comment on the specifics of Tayleurs Point, Revenue said buildings which underwent remedial works before the Finance (Local Property Tax Pyrite Exemption) Regulations 2013 came in were never excused from LPT. “A property that has been remediated prior to May 2013 does not suffer pyrite damage at the date of the introduction of LPT and does not therefore qualify for the exemption.

“Revenue has always made clear that LPT returns, including claims for exemption, are accepted at face value but may be subject to review.”

It does not keep figures on the number of people who claimed pyrite-related LPT exemptions but who have been pursued for back-dated liabilities. “The LPT register includes in excess of 44,000 exempt properties and over time, these cases are amended by Revenue and/or by the property owners. Cases are selected for review on a risk basis, as part of Revenue’s ongoing compliance programme.”

Sinn Féin TD Louise O’Reilly recently visited the estate and met about 10 home owners who said they had received backdated bills. “My read of this is they took all necessary steps, they couldn’t have done much more and they genuinely believed they were exempt and that Revenue gave them comfort in this belief.”

Ms O’Reilly, who is to make representations to both Revenue and the Department of Finance on the issue, said residents had paid their LPT bills for this year and were not attempting to avoid the tax.

“I am not certain that they have a rock solid case but they were certainly given the impression from Revenue that they were exempt,” she said. “What more can you do than tick the [exemption] box on the [LPT returns] form, ring Revenue and ask them if they are sure they are exempt?”