22 Mar 2015

A question about : Council Tax Default

Dear MSE forumites,

I am looking for some advice on a council tax default from 2010.

The story so far is that last may we had a visit from a court appointed bailiff from Rossendales claiming that we owed a total of Ј826.48 for unpaid council tax, this total included the bailiff fees. At the time of the first visit I was at work and was called by my wife asking if I was aware of this. During the call the bailiff came into our home to discuss this with me over the phone. I explained to him that I was totally unaware that this debt exsisted and he said he would leave to allow me to discuss this with the council.
The property that the debt related to we had vacated in the august of 2010. Before vacating I called the local council to let them know that we would be moving to an address under a different local authority. They took our new address for administrative reasons and did not mention any liability exsisting on the property. In time we moved to our new address and subsequently moved again in June 2012 to our current home.
I called the local council after the bailiff had left and explained to them what had just occurred and they stated that the liability did not exist and it was a simple administrative error. Unfortunately during this call I made a schoolboy error and did not get the telephonists name.
Two weeks after the initial bailiffs visit my wife and I were woken at around 9am by the doorbell ringing. I quickly got dressed and was surprised to see a bailiff at the door with a liability order and he was here to collect goods pertaining to the value of the debt. At this point I closed the door and explained that I would call the council as they had informed me that this was an administrative error. I called them and they explained that there was a liability and that the bailiff was in attendance as we had not responded to any letters (letters which we never recieved). I explained to the clerk that we had not received these and they claimed these had been sent and we owed the debt.
After this call I went outside to see the bailiff and said I will not allow him to remove any goods without police presence and I would not let him in to seize goods. At this point I noticed he had listed our property in his note book, he did this when he 'tricked' his way into our property on his first visit. After retrospectively checking our rights I believe that he should have requested that my wife sign a walking possesion order, which he did not do. Anyway to protect our stuff we managed to find the money and paid the bailiff.
I was adamant that we did not owe this money so I visited my local branch of Lloyds bank which was where I held my account for my previous address where the liability exsisted. The bank clerk informed me that when I switched accounts from NatWest to Lloyds and used their dedicated switching service that the direct debit to the local authority in question did not take place. They apparently sent me a letter explaining this to me at the time. Unfortunately as it was nearly four years ago I cannot remember if this was the case. However I know I necer received any letter from the local authority explaining that the payements were missed and certainly not that a liability action was in force.
I know utlimately I'm totally responsible for checking statements, balances etc but I cannot understand how it was allowed to go unnoticed or unchallenged for such a long period. I have written numerous times to the local council resonsible for issuing the liability but have had no reply. I even hand delivered a letter to the office and requested a receipt to confirm that it was received.
The bailiff company Rossendales have refused to give me a breakdown of their charges, something I am believed I am entitled to/
Ideally I am seeking compensation from either the council, Llloyds or Rossendales but not sure who really is responsible for allowing this to happen.
Does anybody on here know which is the best course of action to take? I am considering writing to the local MP to intervene and hopefully get things moving or should I just give up and move on?

Best answers:

  • Since you have already paid the debt and stopped any further bailiff action, I'd chalk this one up to experience and move on. In future, I would make it a point to account for every single penny paid to the council with regard to council tax. Personally, I do this and have always obtained written confirmation from each council I have lived under that the account was settled and there were no outstanding bills whenever I have moved. This is very good practice for all business transactions, no matter how trivial. If I close a loan, I get written confirmation it is complete. If I close a mobile phone, I do exactly that and I keep those letters indefinitely.
    I know it is a bind, but in the long run, those letters would have warned you that there was a problem, and b) would have provided written evidence that all accounts were settled if this was the case, or alerted you otherwise.
    In the meantime, a strongly worded letter to your MP wouldnt hurt and may even highlight the outrageous behaviour of the Councils and how they ride roughshod over people and their lives for what amounts to trivial debts. Private creditors are not allowed to behave thus and I see no reason why councils are a special case.
  • a walking possession does not need to be signed
    did the bailiff leave you a notice of seizure/distress if he did can you list exactly as its written goods levied and fees charged
    is he certificated
    from the council you want to know
    1 - how many Liability Orders they have against you
    2 - the dates they were obtained
    3 - the addresses they were for
    4 - the period of time each covers
    5 - how much each one was for
    6 - how much is now outstanding including bailiff fees if any
    7 - the dates they were passed on for enforcement
    this can be done over the phone in the first instance but you should also send an e-mail to the revenues department to get it in writing
    NEXT this should be sent to the council and bailiff firm by e-mail your council should also be able to provide this information over the phone but as always should be followed up by e-mail
    My Name
    My Address
    Acme Bailiff Co
    Bailiff House
    Ref: Account No: 123456
    Dear Sir
    With reference to the above account(s), Can you please provide me with a breakdown of the charges.
    This includes:
    a - the time & date of any Bailiff action that incurred a Fee.
    b - the reason for the fee.
    c - the name(s) of the Bailiff(s) that attended on each occasion a Fee was charged.
    d - the name(s) of the Court(s) the Bailiff(s) was/were certificated at.
    e - the date of the Certification.
    .F- if a levy fee has been charged please provide a copy of the notice of seizure however at this stage I will accept a list of the goods seized
    This is not a Subject access request under the Data Protection Act S7 1998 so does not incur a fee of Ј10. You are obliged to provide this information.
    I require this information within 14 days.
    Yours faithfully
    Ripped off customer"
    IF possible try and record all calls if the council refuse to provide you with this information because its with the bailiffs remind them that its still there debt and always will be there is no reason for the council not to provide this information as they have access to their bailiffs records