When the local council swoops on every house in search of tax-raising home improvement, the DIYer will smirk at every unbecoming ‘feature’ in his castle
For years, we DIY botchers have borne our scars with fortitude, each a poignant and tender reminder of a job half-done. We have withstood the whips and scorns of angry spouses, mocking neighbours and the staff of accident and emergency units. But no more! Our hour is come and sweet shall be our vengeance.
To the dismay of many a smug and house-proud homeowner, accustomed to taking his ease in any one of a number of well-appointed and beautifully furnished rooms, local authority valuation officers are to inspect every property in the land with a view to taxing home improvements. The person from the council will be empowered to enter the premises and make a careful note of features that may be construed as having added value to the home. The list is said to include extra bedrooms and bathrooms, conservatories, garages, patios, summerhouses, roof terraces and even a pleasant view.
Naturally these proposals have provoked outrage among the millions of homeowners who have striven to transform their humble semis into palaces. Inspired by Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen, Anne Maurice and other exemplars of the telly makeover, they have discarded the clutter of bicycles, tennis rackets, old magazines and china knick-knacks that attach themselves to a home like soup to a shirt-front. They have painted their walls in neutral colours. They have become the Michelangelos of MDF, working that unpromising material into trompe l’oeil cabinets and drawers. They are disciples of minimalism and lovers of light. And now they are to pay the price.
All taxation is iniquitous and none more so than a levy on the fruits of improvement. Ever since primitive man first hung the skull of a slaughtered bison on the cave wall, stood back to admire his work and summoned with pride his mate to bestow warm approval on what we would call a “feature”, humankind has sought to make its surroundings more pleasant. And now the sharp nose and narrow eye of officialdom are to intrude where only the householder should rightfully be. Not a low-flush privy in the land will be immune.
But wisely is it said that every cloud has a silver lining and only an ill wind blows no good. Talking of which, late one stormy night the garden fence with trellis atop that I constructed during the summer, took a tip from Birnam Wood – which, if you remember, moved to Dunsinane – and may now be found wrapped around an oak tree in a garden five doors away. The fate of the fence was emblematic of my good fortune. For when the valuation officer comes to call he will, I feel sure, leave shocked and ashen-faced with no choice other than to grant a whacking rebate on my tax. For where other people have improvements I have mere alterations. Those who search my abode for the wow factor seek in vain.
True, I have an indoor fountain, but it was the spontaneous consequence of drilling through a central-heating pipe beneath floorboards. I also boast a split-level kitchen, but that was the result of subsidence caused by excavating the footings for the neighbouring patio. The patio itself did not turn out quite as planned owing to an unevenness in the terrain explained by the roots of my next door neighbour’s willow tree. In chopping away the unwanted vegetation, I struck the electric cable and it was some time before power was restored to the street.
If you would care to step inside you cannot help noticing the unusual skylight in the master bedroom. It is ragged at the edges and without glass and owes its existence to an eventuality with a butane blowtorch. Similarly, the wet room was fortuitous. Originally intended to be no more than a shower, it assumed an independent streak and gushes forth copious quantities of cold water at random intervals. Something, I believe, to do with pressure gaskets being misaligned.
The loft conversion is still under construction as you would have seen from the section of roof over which you clambered on your way to what remains of the front door. As for the view from the sitting room, that is obscured by a curtain hanging diagonally across the window. One end of the track came away from the lintel due to a defective rawlplug. I could go on. The island unit in the kitchen was an accident. It began life as a wall unit, but thanks to mis-measurement has since occupied the centre of the room.
Happily, black Christmas trees are in vogue this year. I was ahead of the game on this one, since my tree turned black in an instant when the fairy lamps fused and went up in flames.
Let the valuation officer come. I have nothing to fear.