Recycling charges – another back-door tax on buy to let?

What appears at first sight to be a low-level dispute between a landlord and a council has raised what may be a bigger issue for letting agencies and property managers as well as individual buy to let investors – paying for rubbish disposal.

A Brentwood landlord has taken to the local media in his area to say that Essex County Council rules have banned him from taking his garden waste to their recycling centres.

The Essex Live website says Sam Samarasekera owns 13 properties in Brentwood, including some that are multiple occupancy; he has been warned that he is breaking the law by taking a trailer of grass cuttings to a council recycling centre.

Samarasekera says new rules that ban small vans, pick-up trucks and multi-axle trailers will only encourage fly-tipping, and discriminate against individuals like him having to manage properties responsibly.

“The very nature of HMOs is that no single tenant in a property is responsible for maintaining the garden and disposing of the waste that comes with it, such as grass cuttings and hedges. Furthermore there will occasionally be a broken bed or electrical equipment too, such as a fridge or microwave. It is the responsibility of me, the landlord, to dispose of these” he tells Essex Live.

Research by Letting Agent Today, questioning over a dozen local authorities in different parts of England, suggests that similar rules exist in almost every area.

Local authorities say small-scale individual builders, developers and landlords deposit large quantities of waste at recycling centres – larger firms in vehicles that cannot be described as ‘private’ because of their size or branding have to pay fees.

Samarasekera says: “Mine is a tiny trailer but this is not about the size or the number of wheels. They are jumping on me because I take it from other houses and the whole thing is so counter-productive. I understand there is an issue with builders taking their loads to the recycling centre but I am a private landlord.”

Essex County Council has written to Samarasekera, saying he is breaking the law by disposing of garden waste at the recycling centre.

A statement from the council, quoted in the story, says: “The taxpayer cannot continue to pick up the bill for businesses that don’t dispose of their waste properly. These operational changes will stop people unlawfully disposing of business and trade waste at recycling centres at the expense of the taxpayer, whilst still providing the facility for residents to dispose of their legitimate DIY waste when carrying out ad-hoc work at home themselves.”

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