Bristol students facing council tax demands straight after finals
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Bristol final year students are being targeted by Bristol City Council to pay council tax just days after their last exam. Many are forced to pay between the end of the university term – usually the end of June – and the end of their tenancy contracts, with the logic being that young people are no longer students from the day they finish their degree programme. A number of students have also been sent council tax letters in the period between completing their undergraduate degrees at Bristol and beginning their Master’s degrees. Typically, not many students are made aware by letting agents or landlords that they may be targeted by the council in this way. Many students are being forced to pay immediately after finishing their final exams, with the date in which students are deemed to complete their time at university differing depending on whether students began in 2011-12 or later. As well as students being sent council tax letters in the two or three month period between completing undergraduate degrees and beginning Master’s degrees, during which Bristol students are temporarily no longer in full-time education, Epigram has learnt that enforcement officers have been sent to student properties to collect council tax for minimal periods of time. As the crackdown is to maximise council revenue, this raises the question of whether going after students who technically may be liable to pay council tax for a mere five or ten-day period costs more than it raises, considering how high administrative costs of sending in enforcement officers can be. Sasha Brown, a third year Drama student, is one of those targeted: "I only just heard about it – I didn’t even want a lease until September, I won’t even be here during the summer so that’s already an added cost. "My house is a mix of people graduating this year and next year, so some people don’t have to pay a share, therefore my cost goes up! It feels unbelievably unfair. "I was told about the gas, water and electric bills I’d have to pay, but got absolutely no indication I might have to pay council tax until two months after I had already signed my lease." James Oliver, a fourth year Physics student, is also being affected. He is one of five people in a 13-bed house that will be graduating at the end of this academic year. This means that the five will have to split the cost of council tax on a 13-bed Georgian house in the centre of Bristol between them at the end of the year, inevitably paying more than double a single share each. "It seems like it has been slipped in on the sly, only mentioned once it’s too late for us to do anything about it," he says. "There was no mention of it from my landlord or University of Bristol Union (UBU) Lettings when they have undoubtedly encountered this before. It is a fair amount of money and feels a bit sleazy."
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