Council Tax Liability Order Imposed without my knowledge!

by Readers Question

17:06 PM, 29th November 2013
About 7 years ago

Council Tax Liability Order Imposed without my knowledge!

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Council Tax Liability Order Imposed without my knowledge!

I’d like an opinion on how to proceed please with brief details as follows:

I rent out a property in Swindon, where following the departure of the tenants, the property stood empty for a month. I advised Swindon Borough Council of this in May by telephone and was advised that the Council Tax Account was “Closed”. I therefore thought nothing more about it.

In November, the new tenants (though in residence since end-June) handed me correspondence that was addressed to my company but addressed to the rental property. That correspondence comprised:

1. A letter demanding overdue payment of Council Tax.
2. A Court Summons for non-payment of Council Tax.
3. A Liability Order for Council Tax due plus award of Costs.

Having then spoken/written to Swindon Borough Council and explaining the situation plus emphasizing the fact that they had erroneously sent all correspondence to the wrong address, Swindon Borough Council simply re-issued the Liability Notice to my correct address.

I am obviously aggrieved that I can be summoned and ‘found guilty’ without my knowledge and that Swindon Borough Council still insist on including the Court Costs on an issue that I believe is due to their own ineptitude. They were provided with a correct address in May, yet did not update their records to reflect the content of my telephone call.

For expediency, I would pay the amount required on the Liability Order because I am being threatened with Bailiff action. However, do I have a case to take Swindon Borough Council to court (or Small Claims) to recover the court costs, which I believe to have been inappropriately imposed?

Interested to hear constructive views, thank you.

WolfieCouncil tax bill



Comments

Neil Patterson

17:14 PM, 29th November 2013
About 7 years ago

Hi Wolfie,

Can I ask if you also sent paper or email confirmation so you have documented proof of the change of address?

Neil Gammie

17:32 PM, 29th November 2013
About 7 years ago

Hi - never ever phone or email councils/utility companies. Always write and file a copy. Always give as much info as you can in your letter and always imagine that it may be used in court!

Neil Gammie

All BankersAreBarstewards Smith

17:54 PM, 29th November 2013
About 7 years ago

i have recently fought and won 3 liability orders for council tax. The far distant council sent me a demand to the property concerned, which i did not get. They then sent a reminder to the property which i did not get. They then sent a "court order" - (actually this document is issued by the council and not the court in my area) - to an address i lived at years ago - so i did not get that either.

I did not realise that as i had updated my address on one property's account, that they did not automatically update all their records on my other properties. However, i emailed very politely and challenged them, saying that i had informed them of my new address on such and such a date, and asked for their comments. They backed down. i suggest that you challenge this by telling them a name of a call centre staff who took your call on such and such a date and who clearly did not record your conversation.

I have been told that a "court order" for CT is a criminal offence, and therefore does not appear on your credit file.... maybe any solicitors on this site could confirm that. - as i expect that could be a worry for you also Mark.

The council need to be able to prove that you have had the demand, and the reminder before they have legal authority to take you to the court.

let us know how you get on best wishes

simon Bruce

17:58 PM, 29th November 2013
About 7 years ago

Swindon Council are a complete nightmare. I have spent 3 days in court so far this year together with another 3-4 days preparing my cases. We rent out over 100 units across many local authourity areas, with the exception of Swindon, we have a good working relationship with the Council Tax people.

Earlier this year, I received a final notice in respect of a house that had been re-let the year before. There was no gap between the tenant moving out and the new tenant going ito occupation. Swindon Council were advised of the change of tenants by our letting agents at the time. First thing we knew was a final demand turned up, I challenged it and explained that we wernt liable, they asked for all sorts of copies of tenancy agreements and the like which we provided, they then summonsed us to appear at the magistrates court. When we cut short our holiday to attend, they told us that we had paid and the summons had been withdrawn! We hadnt paid and they hadnt told us that the summons had been withdrawn. I made a big fuss and the head man at the court from Swindon Council (Simon) promised to review the case and come back to me by the end of the week, surprise surprise, he didn't bother.

More recently, they summonsed me again, this time is was over £100 of Council Tax for a void period of 6 weeks between tenancies. They had cocked up the billing and it wasn't apparent that they had now started to charge for any void between tenancies. We asked them to re-bill as we understood that we had a 6 month period to find a tenant but they summonsed us instead! Despite not having received a bill detailing the basis of calculation of the liability, I paid what they said I owed. We turned up in court to contest it and the postponed the case. I was summonsed to appear in November, I called the court to check that the Council had not withdrawn the case and was told I had to attend. I travelled to the court, in the lobby had a very heated discussion with the Council tax officials who inferred I was stupid for turning up (despite the court telling me the case was still listed).

Guess what turned up a couple of days ago? yes you guessed it, a new summons for mid December!

I have escalated my expreience as a complaint, I have just had the case officer on the phone for half an hour trying to suggest that I drop it, and telling me everything they have done was correct!

The other thing you can do, and I have done this with Swindon Council because they are incompetant, is to make an application under the data protection act for full disclosure of all records that they hold that are connected in any way to me. You have to pay £10 for this but it involves then in a huge amount of work, and if they miss stuff you can complain to the regulator.

Every time they issue a summons against me, I am going to issue a fresh data protection act 'subject access request'.

Hopefully they will then stop issuing summonses forcing ppeople to take a day out and go to court in Swindon to defend themselves from summary judgement for failing to attend.

again, having

Jonathan Wilson

18:09 PM, 29th November 2013
About 7 years ago

Hi Wolfie

I had a similar situation with the council only a couple of weeks ago. I think Neil Gammie's advice is correct, deal with council and utility companies on the assumption that you may end up in court. I too was taken to court without my knowledge but having kept file notes of previous conversations, the matter was easily resolved.
My concern was that it was only after the court ruling and costs had been award did the council 'find' my new address and I received the bill. I had incorrectly assumed an exemption had been applied given that the property had been subject to a planning application and a six month renovation program. Ultimately, I should have checked, and re-checked.

Reader

18:17 PM, 29th November 2013
About 7 years ago

Treat the demands and every step in the proceedings like you would a County Court summons for a debt. Turn up, appear in the court room and contest the application on the merits. You have a right to be in court and hear the evidence against you and to contest it if necessary.

If you genuinely did not know of proceedings apply to the court NOT the council for the proceedings to be annulled, you will have to prove and error or mistake in the process of obtaining the court order, or seek an annulment in the interests of justice.

Why do I say this, I helped consider and grant thousands of these orders but I am afraid it was many years ago so I might be a fraction out of date. Consider it a summons for debt and seek legal advice. If there is maladministration by the council apply to the Ombudsman for a review of the councils actions, he can recommend they pay you compensation - may be it has affected your credit rating and it will cost you to correct things.

Good luck.

What you say about Swindon is in my experience relevant to many councils.

simon Bruce

18:21 PM, 29th November 2013
About 7 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "All BankersAreBarstewards Smith" at "29/11/2013 - 17:54":

The guy from Swindon Council tells me that they dont have to prove anything, they just have to say they have posted it!

Joe Bloggs

18:31 PM, 29th November 2013
About 7 years ago

most tenancy agreements state that post is to be forwarded to the landlord (its obvious anyway!). if your tenants failed to do this then the fine should be recovered from them.

All BankersAreBarstewards Smith

18:31 PM, 29th November 2013
About 7 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "simon Bruce" at "29/11/2013 - 18:21":

council staff are often "economical with the truth" to make their life easier..

Do they have your correspondence address on file from earlier tenancies ? If so that would be one way to prove that they know/knew where you could be contacted.

Any court judge needs to be satisfied that the defendant KNEW there was a complaint lodged against him/her or that s/he knew of the debt.

Ben George

20:41 PM, 29th November 2013
About 7 years ago

I think you are absolutely in the right here and the council are really trying to pull a fast one, however...... This may not sound palatable to some, but I am curious what amounts of money we are discussing here? I mainly say that because sometimes if the cost in time and money is just to get back a small amount, is it worth it? No disrespect intended. You are right but I am just curious how much money is in dispute.

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