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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 June 2006, 16:02 GMT 17:02 UK
Rates plan will benefit students
To let sign
Landlords renting to students could benefit
Young people in full-time education and training will be exempt from paying domestic rates, the Northern Ireland Secretary has announced.

Peter Hain confirmed that students would also pay reduced water charges.

The decision is aimed at encouraging more young people to stay on in education. It brings the province into line with the rest of the UK.

"I am removing a potential barrier for those who wish to continue their learning," Mr Hain said on Tuesday.

Speaking during a visit to North Down and Ards Institute in Bangor, he said he wanted to ensure students could avail fully of the opportunities offered by education and training.

People in full-time education or training will pay no rates and reduced water charges, the first in a series of packages for "vulnerable groups".

There are some differences in the legislation because of the way that council tax is charged in Great Britain.

In Northern Ireland, if the home is shared by anyone not eligible for the rebate, then the full bill must be paid. Elsewhere, they can receive a 25% discount.

Mr Hain said more concessions would be revealed next week to help vulnerable and low income groups.

There has been concern that landlords who let to students will qualify for the rates exemption.

Peter Hain
Peter Hain made the announcement on Tuesday

But, Robert Greer from the Landlords Association said: "It simply brings student accommodation in line with that in England and Scotland," he said.

"Landlords have only one source of income and that's rent. If landlords were responsible for rates then it would have to be passed on to the students."

However, Bronagh Hinds, who lives in an area dominated by student accommodation, said it was a "ridiculous sop to already rich people".

Safeguards

"There are many landlords who own many houses in this area," she said.

"If they have a five bedroom house and can charge 250 a room they are lifting 1,000 a month and some of them have 70 and 80 houses in the area."

There will be conditions on exemption - all members of the house must be in full-time education.

But 16 and 17-year-olds living independently will also qualify, as will young people leaving care - up to the age of 21.

If landlords let out premises to students, they will not be charged, but there will be new safeguards to ensure that the rates are not included in the rent.

It is believed householders will have to apply for the exemptions and give an account of the number of students or full-time trainees in the home.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Watch representatives talk about the rates plan



SEE ALSO
NI water charges plan is defended
16 Mar 05 |  Northern Ireland
Protests against NI water charges
12 Feb 05 |  Northern Ireland

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