10:30 AM, 14th April 2015, About 6 years ago 10
I have a Victorian terraced house that I let. It is a large two storey house with 4 tenants in individual rooms. They are all unrelated and have individual tenancy agreements.
Last December I received a call from one of my current tenants to say bailiffs had attended the property for an unpaid council tax bill. The name on the account was of a previous tenant who left a few years ago. I was confused as I currently had another tenant living in the property who had been in charge of paying the council for the house (or at least told me they had). I called the council to find out what was going on.
It turns out that no council tax had been paid for the last 4 years and the debt is around £5000. It also came to light that the tenant who told me they were paying the council tax had actually removed themselves from the account 4 years ago after briefly paying council tax for a few months. Apparently this was because another tenant moved in and had applied for housing benefit and a single persons discount. Apparently it all got confused and everyone forgot about sorting it out (I find that hard to believe). I couldn’t understand why or how the council had been chasing the previous tenant for 4 years without once contacting the property owner, me.
I was then informed that because I rent the rooms out individually, the council deems the property as an HMO in regards to council tax, and that I was liable to pay the bill in the first place. I was shocked as I had no idea. Prior to this situation, I had 4 students renting the property who were all exempt from paying council tax. They gave the council the exemption forms and my contact details etc, and it all was accepted without issue. This current situation began when one of the students moved out and a non-exempt tenant moved in.
Anyway, I appealed twice (it’s not worth going into) but the council rejected everything and now I have to pay back the £5000. Not nice at all. The council would still be chasing this guy if I hadn’t gotten in touch with them. Silly me?
I apologise for the length of this post so here is my question….
Would I be able to claim the money back from my previous tenants (just their individual share) for the duration of their tenancies? I spoke with a family friend who works in property law who told me I can because of the tenancy agreements all of my the tenants sign. I do also have the initial emails with new tenants and the adverts I’ve posted stating that I didn’t pay council tax. But I am still unsure.
The Tenancy Agreements I use are Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreements. In them they state:
“The Tenant Agrees with the Landord:
To pay promptly to the authorities any share of monies due for water, gas, electricity, council tax (or any other tax that replaces council tax, sewerage and telephone.”
Do I have a case here or not? Any thought would be greatly appreciated.
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