Angry neighbours lament sorry state of affairs over property tax
Residents of unfinished developments upset at having to pay to look out on waste ground
WHEN the Government introduced the household charge, 43,000 homes were considered exempt, such were the appalling conditions of the estates left over by the collapse of the Celtic Tiger.
Less than a year later, and with the charge replaced by the Local Property Tax (LPT), the figure has plummeted to only 5,100 exempt homes.
Anyone looking at the numbers would be forgiven for thinking that Ireland's developers and local authorities had pulled out all the stops to finish what they started in the boom but failed to complete with the bust. The reality on the ground, however, tells a completely different story.
Indeed, a cursory examination by the Sunday Independent of the lists of developments exempted from the household charge and the property tax throws up a particularly interesting example in the Co Kildare town of Celbridge.
Of the three unfinished developments in the town, two were listed as exempt from the household charge just four months ago.
With the introduction of the property tax, that has been reduced to one exemption, leaving the other two estates liable for the controversial levy.
It's a situation which, if it is replicated to any degree across the country, will pose serious problems for the Revenue Commissioners as they endeavour to collect the property tax from householders who, in many cases, are living a stone's throw from either the shells or foundations of houses and apartments from the bubble era.
In the case of Celbridge, for example, the Hazelwood estate is exempt from the property tax while less than 50 metres away on the other side of the Hazelhatch Road, the Willow Bank phase at Primrose Gate is liable for the payment.
This is despite the fact that the houses in both estates look out on to unfinished phases of development.
Over on the other side of Celbridge town, the unfairness behind the proposed imposition of the tax becomes even clearer at the Glen phase of the Oldtown Mill estate.
Having been exempted from the household charge, the houses here have now been dragged unceremoniously into the property tax net.
This is despite the fact that homeowners at the Glen have on one side of their homes a large fenced-off area of waste ground where the foundations of several houses have been left exposed.
Looking at the condition of the three estates collectively, it would be reasonable to believe the residents of all of them would have a case to argue with the Revenue Commissioners to be exempted from the property tax until additional development or remedial works are carried out.
Primrose Gate residents Eamon Flanagan and Brian McEvoy expressed their unhappiness with the imposition of the property tax on their estate, which has yet to be completed and taken under the charge of the local council.
Adding to their irritation is the fact that they and their neighbours already pay significant management fees for the development's upkeep.
Mr Flanagan said: "I think it's terribly unfair. The Government and the county council are just laughing at us.
"I'm not too happy about this, but having said that, in my earlier days we had rates that we had to pay.
"But when we paid those rates we got services from the council.
"Now we're being asked to put money in with the property tax and it's just going into a big black hole – €1.2m in development levies went out of this estate. Where did it all go?"
Asked for his views on the issue, Mr McEvoy said: "We spoke with the Labour TD Emmet Stagg and the information he gave us was that the earliest this estate would be taken in charge would be 2016.
"There's a lot of issues going forward with the council and the developer while we as taxpayers just seem to be left in limbo."
A resident of the Glen at Oldtown Mill, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: "It's a terrible shame that someone else made all the mess, but it will be us and other people like us across the country who will have to pay for it.
"It's always been the same in this country, and that's the way it always will be."
Despite their upset, the residents appeared to be resigned to the fact that they would have to pay the property tax.
One said: "I'm not opposed to a property tax as such. If everyone paid and paid their fair share, it's acceptable to have it. I'm just concerned that it isn't going to be applied equally."