The Local Government (Household Charge) Act 2011 provides the legislative basis for the household charge. Under the Act, an owner of a residential property on the liability date of 1 January 2012 is liable to pay the household charge, unless otherwise exempted or entitled to claim a waiver. The household charge is on a self-assessment basis and it is a matter for an owner of a residential property on the liability date to determine if he or she has a liability and, if so, to declare that liability and pay the household charge.
Section 4(4)(b) and section 4(6) of the Act provide that a waiver from the charge applies in 2012 and 2013 to properties in certain unfinished housing estates specified in a list prescribed by the Minister. As part of the process of preparing the National Housing Development Survey 2011, published by my Department in October 2011, local authorities provided details of all unfinished housing developments in their areas. Unfinished housing developments were divided into four categories as follows:
Category one, where the development is still being actively completed by the developer, or where no serious public safety issues exist;
Category two, where a receiver has been appointed;
Category three, where a receiver has not been appointed and the developer is still in place but effectively inactive; and
Category four, where the development has been effectively abandoned and is posing serious problems for residents.
Other relevant factors for the purposes of the categorisation process include, inter alia:
the state of completion of roads, footpaths, public lighting facilities, piped water and sewerage facilities and open spaces or similar amenities within the development;
the extent to which the development complies with the terms of applicable planning permission;
the extent to which it complies with the provisions of the Building Control Acts 1990 and 2007;
the provisions of the Local Government (Sanitary Services) Act 1964 as they pertain to dangerous places and dangerous structures within the meaning of the Act;
the extent to which facilities within the development have been taken in charge by the local authority concerned; and
where there is an agreement regarding the maintenance of such facilities, the extent to which this agreement has been complied with.
In some cases a local authority may have found that conditions in respect of a certain phase of a development were relatively good and that, for example, no serious public safety issues could be identified. This phase of the development may have been categorised under category 1 or 2. Conversely, safety issues may have been identified in another phase of the same overall development, or development in that second phase may have been abandoned altogether, implying a category 3 or 4 identification for that phase.
This categorisation formed the basis for the list of those unfinished developments eligible for a waiver on the annual household charge.
Only households in developments in categories three and four are eligible for the waiver from payment of the household charge. The list of developments in which households are eligible for the waiver in 2012 is set out under the Local Government (Household Charge) Regulations 2012 and forms the complete list of such developments for this year. A revised list of estates will be prescribed for 2013 after which time the waiver for unfinished housing developments will end.
Throughout this period it is anticipated that the numbers of categories 3 and 4 developments will decrease as my Department continues to work with local authorities and other stakeholders to resolve outstanding issues, including through the Public Safety Initiative.