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Questions regarding Council Tax - Bailiffs involved but amount paid

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  • Questions regarding Council Tax - Bailiffs involved but amount paid

    Hi All

    Was hoping to find some advice on this forum.

    I am currently an overseas landlord (moved to the UAE with work and my home is rented out in London, UK). Last year i had a period when the property was vacant. The council was advised accordingly, along with a further notification of when a new tenant moved in. I was sent a bill for this period, but the original statement had the incorrect dates for when it was unoccupied. I called the council (twice) to try to rectify this (and try to pay the outstanding balance) and both times i was told that they needed to regenerate the bill so i could pay the correct outstanding balance. I also followed up with an email in May stating the same, to which i received no response.

    I then suddenly discovered this week that a bailiff has contacted my old flat mate (who hasn't lived at my property for 6 years!) to tell them that in 24 hours they would be visiting my property for a removal of goods due to an unpaid council tax bill.

    I immediately phoned the council, who say they have issued me various notices (which i haven't received because i don't live at the address and the council won't accept a foreign forward correspondence address). They also claim to have no record of me having contacted them twice before, nor a copy of the email i had sent back in May. I forwarded my email again, but they then said it would take 72 hours to process the email internally (and they could only apologise that this would be AFTER the bailiff visit!). Finally a manager agreed to review my case, but asked for a copy of the phone records to show that i had called previously (which i can't provide as i had rang from work where hundreds of calls are made everyday) and a copy of the email (which i had already sent, again). She did allow me to settle the outstanding balance directly to the council (inclusive of late fee, but heyho) and said she would contact me again within 72 hours once my case is reviewed and a decision is reached about whether to recall the bailiffs.

    I called the bailiff to relay this update, but they claim that the council have just "made things worse for me" - i still owe them the money (plus their extortionate fees) and they would continue proceedings unless i pay. i have not seen any sight of a bill, but i asked the bailiff to give me a breakdown which apparently includes a charge for a "first visit" where they say they left a note, but the tenant has not received anything. In the end I had to hang up as the bailiff refused to back down, and the situation is left in limbo.

    I've advised the tenant of what has happened, and told him not to let the bailiff in if he visits. I have also researched my rights and understand that they cannot 'force' entry because it does not relate to income tax or a High Court order. I also don't have any worthwhile belongings in the flat except for some old furniture - all white goods are fixed and the TV etc is the tenant's. However i do feel bad that the tenant could be dragged into this, and wanted to check the following:

    - Can the bailiff seize goods from the tenant to cover a debt owed (though paid!) by the landlord?
    - Does the bailiff have the right to pursue their charges, even though the council tax arrears have been settled by the landlord directly with the council?
    - is there anything i can do to get rid of the bailiffs if the council elect not to recall them (not sure why they would not agree to recall them after reviewing my case but the manager seemed pretty negative about it all)
    - Can the council really be as useless as this and not accept any fault?!

    i just don't want my tenant to get ongoing hassle from the bailiff, but nor do i feel it correct to bend to the will of the bailiff and pay their charges for a fault caused by the council.

    thanks and look forward to your response.


    ps. the council in question is Lambeth, who are terrible!

  • #2
    I would be very much tempted to contact the CEO of the council and complain about the incompetence of the staff (probably outsourced), copying in your local councillor.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by ostell View Post
      I would be very much tempted to contact the CEO of the council and complain about the incompetence of the staff (probably outsourced), copying in your local councillor.
      thanks for your response. that is certainly an option, though i'm not sure how to get the contact details of the Head of the Council. I will do some investigating. in the meantime, any suggestions on bailiffs issue most welcome.

      Comment


      • #4

        I called the bailiff to relay this update, but they claim that the council have just "made things worse for me" - i still owe them the money (plus their extortionate fees) and they would continue proceedings unless i pay. i have not seen any sight of a bill, but i asked the bailiff to give me a breakdown which apparently includes a charge for a "first visit" where they say they left a note, but the tenant has not received anything. In the end I had to hang up as the bailiff refused to back down, and the situation is left in limbo.
        If the council withdraw if from the enforcement agents then the fees cease being collectable under the liability order. If the enforcement agents thought they still had a case they'd need to test their luck in the county court but it's unlikely they'd succeed.

        thanks for your response. that is certainly an option, though i'm not sure how to get the contact details of the Head of the Council. I will do some investigating. in the meantime, any suggestions on bailiffs issue most welcome.
        I would suggest that rather than complaining to the chief executive first I would personally wait for the council tax officer to respond and then lodge a formal stage 1 complaint if it's not dealt with to your satisfaction. If you go straight to the chief exec a lot of the time it's just bounced back to a manager in the department to look at or passed to their complaints team anyway.

        I've advised the tenant of what has happened, and told him not to let the bailiff in if he visits. I have also researched my rights and understand that they cannot 'force' entry because it does not relate to income tax or a High Court order. I also don't have any worthwhile belongings in the flat except for some old furniture - all white goods are fixed and the TV etc is the tenant's. However i do feel bad that the tenant could be dragged into this, and wanted to check the following
        You are right, they cannot force entry. They can only have peaceful entry. The problem starts if they get access.

        Comment


        • #5
          It is a bit of a mess - I used to hate in some respects having to deal with overseas landlords as it was usually more awkward where they didn't have a UK based agent. I can see the issues from both sides (I have worked in council tax for councils and against councils as an self-employed agent) - you are stating you sent the details but the council state they didn't get them. You state you called but can't provide the records. This doesn't by any means indicate you are trying to pull a fast one but so many do that the council will be naturally suspicious.

          Service of demand notices & reminders should be served under s233 of the Local Government Act 1972 - "Any such document may be given to or served on the person in question either by delivering it to him, or by leaving it at his proper address, or by sending it by post to him at that address.". If they had a an address and didn't use it then there is the potential for arguing the documents were served correctly (the last known address can be used if no other address is know).

          The summons service comes under regulation 35 of the council tax (administration and enforcement) regs 1992. "A summons issued under regulation 34(2) may be served on a person —(a)by delivering it to him, or (b)by leaving it at his usual or last known place of abode, or in the case of a company, at its registered office, or (c)by sending it by post to him at his usual or last known place of abode, or in the case of a company, to its registered office, or (d)by leaving it at, or by sending it by post to him at, an address given by the person as an address at which service of the summons will be accepted." . Again if they had an address and didn't use it then the issuing of the summons is arguable. (Where a contact address is abroad the issue is a bit more difficult as it's not clear how it should be handled - the problem is that council tax sits in a mess between civil and criminal procedures - and courts permission is usually needed for overseas service of summons).

          Comment

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