Council tax reduction letter warning
Residents are being warned to steer clear of paying companies offering to help reduce their Council Tax bill - because they can check their banding themselves for free.
We've issued the warning after our trading standards officers saw a rise in complaints from across the county.
Residents have reported receiving letters from companies saying their house is in a higher Council Tax band than it should be - offering to get it reclassified and return a lump sum from the period of over-payment.
Some companies offer to carry out the work in return for a percentage of any money returned following a successful challenge.
In other instances residents are asked to hand over an administration fee ahead of any work being done.
Offering the service is not illegal but it is simple for residents to carry out the process themselves - without it costing a penny.
Residents can check that their Council Tax banding is correct through the Valuation Office Agency, which is responsible for setting and reviewing council tax bands on all domestic properties, and carries out the review without charge.
Councillor Kevin Parkinson, Cabinet Member for Regeneration, said:
"I can understand residents being tempted by what's on offer in these letters, particularly during times where there is such pressure on the household budget.
"But there is absolutely no reason for any Derbyshire resident to pay for this service.
"These letters are being sent by businesses not in any way associated with Derbyshire councils.
"The vast majority of homes will be correctly categorised anyway, but those who want to seek clarification on their banding can do so totally free of charge.
"We don't want people to pay for a service which they simply do not need."
Letters offering help to get Council Tax bandings have been sent to addresses across the county. In Erewash the number of complaints received by the borough council has already topped 50.
Residents wishing to check their council tax banding should contact the Valuation Office Agency on 03000 503 600.
If you are worried about unsolicited letters or phone calls, contact Consumer Direct on 08454 04 05 06.
For more information on council tax banding, visit www.voa.gov.uk (opens in a new window). To check if a business is authorised by the Claims Management Regulator, visit www.claimsregulation.gov.uk/search.aspx (opens in a new window).