26 May 2020


International Cases

The Department of Finance v Quinn

Ireland

09.09.2019

Civil

Rate relief is allowed where a dwelling's rateable value is increased by facility required for meeting needs of a person who resides in hereditament and has a disability

Mrs Quinn who is a person with a disability for the purposes of Article 31A of the Rates (Northern Ireland) Order 1977 ("the 1977 Order") applied pursuant to that Article to the Department of Finance for special rates relief in the form of Disabled Persons Allowance ("DPA"). The application was refused by the Department on the basis that, she did not qualify for DPA as there were no qualifying facilities in her home. Mrs Quinn appealed to the Northern Ireland Valuation Tribunal which awarded her DPA on the basis that, the ramps to the front and back door of her home were facilities necessary to meet her needs and that they were qualifying facilities within the terms of Article 31A(2)(a) of the 1977 Order. On review the Tribunal maintained its decision.

Article 31A of 1977 Order applies to a hereditament in which there is a facility which is required for meeting the needs of a person who resides in the hereditament and has a disability, including a facility of either of the following descriptions— (i) a room, other than a kitchen, bathroom or lavatory, which is wholly or mainly used (whether for providing therapy or for other purposes) by such a person; or (ii) an additional kitchen, bathroom or lavatory"

The essential question is what meaning to attribute to the word "including" in Article 31A(2)(a) of 1977 Order. The meaning of the word "including" is that it is used as a word of extension in legislative drafting. In this way, the meaning of a class is extended or the natural meaning of words is extended to include also those things which are declared to be included. The word "including" is being used as the equivalent of "meaning and including" so that it is used in a restrictive sense as providing an exhaustive list of the facilities.

Rather than extending the meaning of qualifying facilities, there is an exclusive element in (i) and (ii) in that a kitchen, bathroom or lavatory is excluded unless it is "additional." On that basis, the descriptions in (i) and (ii) are performing the function of limiting the preceding words. If the preceding words were not limited by the facilities in (i) and (ii) then, for instance a kitchen, which was not additional, could still give rise to Article 31A of 1977 Order applying together with the obligation to grant a rebate. The heating installation facility (which was repealed in 2006) also had an exclusive element so that not only had there to be a heating installation but it also had to provide heating in two or more rooms. If it did not do so then Article 31A did not apply and the obligation to grant a rebate did not arise. Furthermore, the garage facility (which was also repealed in 2006) also had an exclusive element in that it excluded temporary use.

The amendments in 2006 which resulted in the repeal of the heating installation facility and the garage facility would be ineffective unless the word "including" provides an exhaustive definition of the meaning of the preceding words. If it did not then both a heating installation facility and a garage facility would still fall within the natural and ordinary meaning of the preceding words. In that way the repeal of those two facilities in 2006 would have been to no effect.

The fundamental purpose of Article 31A of 1977 Order is to provide rate relief where a dwelling's rateable value is increased by the facility which is required for meeting the needs of a person who resides in the hereditament and who has a disability. This purpose can be clearly discerned from Article 31A(11) as originally enacted in 1979. In short, the purpose of Article 31A of 1977 Order is to provide a rate rebate which must be referable to rates incurred as a result of the requirement of a facility. Furthermore the mischief that the DPA was designed to remedy was additional space and facilities that result in a higher valuation.

However, the purpose would be undermined, if any facility falling within the natural and ordinary meaning of the preceding words gave rise to the obligation to grant a rebate. If that was so then, for instance a grab rail in the hallway of a dwelling which had no impact on the rateable value but which was a facility which was required for meeting the needs of a person who resides in the hereditament and who has a disability, could give rise to the obligation to grant a rebate of 25%. That would not be in accordance with the purpose of the legislation but rather would undermine that purpose. An exhaustive meaning of the word "including" secures the legislative purpose.

The qualifying facilities in Article 31A(2) of the 1977 Order are limited to those listed in (i) & (ii). There is a distinction between the word "facility" used in Article 31A and the word "room" used in both the Rating (Disabled Persons) Act, 1978 and the Council Tax (Reductions for Disabilities) Regulation, 1992. The policy behind Article 31A of the 1977 Order is to provide rate relief where a dwelling's rateable value is increased by the facility which is required for meeting the needs of a person who resides in the hereditament and who has a disability.

Tags : Rate relief Article Applicability

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