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Bit of a complicated Council Tax problem

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  • Bit of a complicated Council Tax problem

    Hi all

    Would appreciate some advice if anyone can help on this. Firstly, this is for a friend so I might not be able to answer any questions straight away.

    The council have various liability orders against her dating back to 2011. She was in an abusive relationship up to June 2014, was giving him the money to pay the council tax, he was spending it elsewhere and hiding the letters etc. I know that doesn't mean she doesn't have to pay, but just some background on why it wasn't paid and how she ended up where she is now with it. Some payments were made towards the debts when she went herself to pay it, but she was working full time so usually he 'paid' it.

    She moved out in June 2014, overnight, just grabbed what she could carry in a bag and left, moved into a flat she had just been given by the local housing association. She hasn't been back since.
    She has paid council tax since moving in her flat, on time, and never even had a weeks arrears. Obviously the council knew where she was the whole time.

    Fast forward to November this year, bailiffs turn up for around 3000.

    I went to the council tax office with her. The woman was extremely rude, wouldn't really give her any information, just kept telling her she had to pay. So I requested a SAR to include copies of all council tax bills, statements, liability orders, notes on the account, any letters sent, and any other relevant information. The girl on the counter refused, I ended up having to speak to the councils DPO directly to get them to agree to this. He suspended the bailiff action for 14 days while we waited for the information, which, in his words, would only take 3 or 4 days to get to her.

    4 weeks later she gets a letter (actually 5 weeks later but dated 4 weeks later), on the 23rd December.

    The letter lists periods of liability, lists payments made with dates, lists Statutory Correspondence and details recovery actions taken on the account. However they haven't supplied a single copy bill, copy letter or anything that was asked for, as they said they have no requirement to keep these documents.

    The thing is, they are important to clarifying what is actually owed. For example, one of the periods of liability detailed is dated April 2014 to Jan 2015. The amount is roughly 10 months worth, but she moved out in June 2014, the council were fully aware of this, so surely that is wrong? Plus, as she moved out in 2014 and the council were fully aware of that, she hasn't had a single letter about the debt, as apparently they sent them all to the property address she moved out of. They haven't sent a single one to her current address, yet managed to send the bailiffs there. For example, the court summons for 2014-2015 was sent out 4 months after she moved, so 100% did not see it.

    They also refuse point blank to discuss if her ex partner has made any payments, or if any enforcement action has started again him (which I do think is right, although doesn't seem fair).

    Is it right they are refusing to supply documents she has asked for? Surely if they don't have copies of the liability orders, they can't enforce them? If they don't have copies of the bills, how can she check they are correct?

    Anyone got any suggestions where to go from here? She works 24 hours a week, takes home around 190ish I think. Pays 91 a week rent, has to pay 16 I think for a bus pass to get to and from work, and around 20 a week council tax. So only has about 70 a week for bills, food etc, when we were in the office they said the absolute minimum they would take would be 50 a week and not to offer less as it will be refused. So basically she would have nothing left for food, gas, electric etc.

    Sorry for the long post and thanks in advance for any help given
    Tags: None

  • #2
    The letter lists periods of liability, lists payments made with dates, lists Statutory Correspondence and details recovery actions taken on the account. However they haven't supplied a single copy bill, copy letter or anything that was asked for, as they said they have no requirement to keep these documents.
    There will never be a direct copy as they are system generated as needed and printed. The files aren't typically kept as they are created as and when needed. The council can generate another bill as it would have been at the time relatively easily though.
    The thing is, they are important to clarifying what is actually owed. For example, one of the periods of liability detailed is dated April 2014 to Jan 2015. The amount is roughly 10 months worth, but she moved out in June 2014, the council were fully aware of this, so surely that is wrong?
    Leaving a property does not automatically mean that council tax liability has ended, it's not that straight forward. In nearly 20 years working in council tax (and the last 4 years dealing with complaints and disputes against councils) this is probably one of the most common things that comes up.
    Plus, as she moved out in 2014 and the council were fully aware of that, she hasn't had a single letter about the debt, as apparently they sent them all to the property address she moved out of
    That is potentially an issue - If it was a client of mine I'd be looking issues regarding service of documents (which differs slightly pre and post court summons) but generally requires it to be sent to the last known address.
    They also refuse point blank to discuss if her ex partner has made any payments, or if any enforcement action has started again him (which I do think is right, although doesn't seem fair).
    It's a bit of a grey area as it involves data protection in respect of an individual (although there are ways of figuring it out from the known details, in many cases).
    Is it right they are refusing to supply documents she has asked for? Surely if they don't have copies of the liability orders, they can't enforce them? If they don't have copies of the bills, how can she check they are correct?
    There is no such specific thing as a 'copy of the liability order'. The application is made to the court on a list (which gives all the details of the application) and the court ascent to the cases on that list on bulk - they give their approval and sign their agreement on that list, that is the actual granting of the order. The court will be able to confirm they signed a bulk liability order application on the date in question.

    Realistically, if the council say they have the order then they do - I've not once, in 20 years, come across a council claiming to have one where they don't.
    Anyone got any suggestions where to go from here? She works 24 hours a week, takes home around 190ish I think. Pays 91 a week rent, has to pay 16 I think for a bus pass to get to and from work, and around 20 a week council tax
    A Council Tax Reduction application and possibly a s13A(1)(c) discretionary relief application.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by lgfa92 View Post
      There will never be a direct copy as they are system generated as needed and printed. The files aren't typically kept as they are created as and when needed. The council can generate another bill as it would have been at the time relatively easily though.

      Leaving a property does not automatically mean that council tax liability has ended, it's not that straight forward. In nearly 20 years working in council tax (and the last 4 years dealing with complaints and disputes against councils) this is probably one of the most common things that comes up.

      That is potentially an issue - If it was a client of mine I'd be looking issues regarding service of documents (which differs slightly pre and post court summons) but generally requires it to be sent to the last known address.

      It's a bit of a grey area as it involves data protection in respect of an individual (although there are ways of figuring it out from the known details, in many cases).

      There is no such specific thing as a 'copy of the liability order'. The application is made to the court on a list (which gives all the details of the application) and the court ascent to the cases on that list on bulk - they give their approval and sign their agreement on that list, that is the actual granting of the order. The court will be able to confirm they signed a bulk liability order application on the date in question.

      Realistically, if the council say they have the order then they do - I've not once, in 20 years, come across a council claiming to have one where they don't.

      A Council Tax Reduction application and possibly a s13A(1)(c) discretionary relief application.
      Thank you very much for your reply.

      She told them she moved out mid 2014, and started paying immediately on her new home. How can she tell if she was liable for any further payments please?

      Is there any online resource for the rules regarding service of documents please? As I say, she kept the council informed the whole time, and hasn't missed a payment since she moved, its not like she's hid from it, she genuinely didn't know.

      Any tips for how to apply for the s13A(1)(c)? What should she say please? I've never heard of one so any help would be appreciated

      Thank you again

      Comment


      • #4
        Is there any online resource for the rules regarding service of documents please?
        It depends on the specific documents as service differs depending on this - there's more than one piece of legislation involved. There's not one specific resource for council tax that covers it (Council tax is my area of practice - it involves a lot of legislation, as tax law it's not the easiest to deal with once you have to pop below the surface beyond the straight forward stuff).

        She told them she moved out mid 2014, and started paying immediately on her new home. How can she tell if she was liable for any further payments please?
        It would require a full look at the situation as it stood at the time - primarily what the position was tenancy wise & residence wise across the whole period from the time of vacation up to the end of the alleged period of liability. Again, it's based on case law and legislation (Taking in to account any changes during the period, council tax is a 'daily charge' and has to be assessed as such).

        Any tips for how to apply for the s13A(1)(c)? What should she say please? I've never heard of one so any help would be appreciated
        Some council's have a formal application form, others do not. It's a case of asking them to remit (in full or part) council tax for a period, under s13A(1)(c) for XYZ reason. There's very little defined in the way of a statutory process, it's more governed by valuation tribunal decisions.

        Comment


        • #5
          thanks again for the response.

          My thoughts at this early stage are to write back stating the SAR wasn't completed as requested. I specifically requested copies of bills, any letters sent, any responses, any account notes, list of all payments made, and any other documents relating to the alleged debt. While they might not have copies sitting on file, I fail to see why the letters & bills couldn't be reproduced.

          They haven't supplied anything at all, just lists of what they sent, which is all well and good, but it doesn't make things easy. Plus, they list payments against each bill, then on another page there is a list of payments made, and the two figures don't match, so something is wrong somewhere, so I think its reasonable to request these documents to see what the actual debt is. Plus, forgetting about her partner hiding letter, for the period 2014-2015 the second reminder letter, court summons and request for information were all sent after she moved out, so she certainly hasn't seen those.

          Also, she claimed council tax support for the period 2013-2014, as far as I'm aware she also did the same 2014-2015, she certainly did at her flat, but can't see any reason why she wouldn't have for the house for the few months she was there before moving. Nothing had changed in that period regarding income, unless of course he hid the renewal letter that would have been sent in roughly the April(?), so would like to see the reason why the claim stopped.

          Having said that, I'm aware the fact there are liability orders probably limits what, if anything, she can do about the debt, but certainly I think the last bill should be challenged, she was only there for about 3 months, should have had council tax support, and 100% hasn't seen any reminder letters or anything. I also think they should have wrote to her previously, considering they knew where she was, they managed to send bailiffs to the new address, so why not any letters.


          What do you need to know about the tenancy etc at the time? They owned the property jointly. Still do, She moved out in the June or July 2014 due to the abusive relationship, into a housing association property. She claimed council tax support when she moved in, which covered roughly 50% of it, and hasn't missed a payment since.*

          Comment

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