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Council tax problem, bailffs now involved
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# 1
ajarnold
Old 05-12-2012, 12:17 PM
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Default Council tax problem, bailffs now involved

Hi all, I hope you guys can help.

My partner had a payment plan agreed with the council, for some council tax arrears. She was paying back 15 a week on the debt, plus a weekly amount towards this years council tax. The council agreed this was fine. Once they receive the payment, they are meant to transfer 15 towards the debt.

We received a letter in the post today from a bailiff saying that she owed around 1200 for this years council tax. It turns out they were putting all of the money she was paying towards the debts, leaving this years council tax as unpaid. When she spoke to the council, they admitted it was there error but said it was now in the bailiffs hands and there was nothing they could do. Apparently they even went to the court about it but didn't inform my partner this was happening, otherwise we would have queried it before it got this far.

It doesn't seem fair that despite having a plan in place, and the council admitting being at fault, that we are now having to deal with the bailiffs directly, who want large amounts up front which we cannot afford to pay.

What can we do?

Thanks
Alan

Last edited by ajarnold; 05-12-2012 at 12:20 PM.
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# 2
Red_dog_Sam
Old 05-12-2012, 4:23 PM
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Whilst it's common to have an agreement to pay arrears in instalments this is always on top of the current year charge which still has to be paid in full. If the amount paid would've paid the current year in full plus 15 off the arrears, then correct allocation of the cash would've prevented the current year falling into arrears and the additional costs associated with another summons for non payment. In that case you should identify the amounts paid and the dates and notify the council what the correct allocation of funds should be. If you can demonstrate that the current year has been paid then you have a case for the bailiff action to be cancelled and additional costs removed. If the amount paid still left the current year short then the council would still take recovery action. They have to send a reminder notice, a summons and then a notice of liability order before a debt is passed to the bailiff so it is certain that they did at least try to tell your partner this was happening. They will send any letters to the last known address so if your partner has moved and they didn't know, it possible documents went to an old adress - but that doesn't make the summons or the subsequent referral to bailiffs invalid. The council can call a case back from the bailiff so it is a case of them choosing not to do so rather than "nothing they can do".
If you post more information on what bailiff letters you had and fees you are being charged you can get some advice on whether the charges being imposed by the bailiff are legitimate.
Standard advice on dealing with bailiffs is don't let them in! lock doors and windows and don't answer the door unless you know who is there. If you own a car - park it well away from the house. If you don't let the bailiffs in and they cannot levy against your goods they will have to return the case to the council. The council can then consider an attachment to earnings or benefit or agree instalments instead. They would usually only go to court for a commital order (prison) in cases of wilful refusal to pay so you should still make payments to them to show willing.
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# 3
ajarnold
Old 05-12-2012, 4:55 PM
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Thank you for the reply.

I can confirm this years council tax would not be in arrears, had they processed the payments correctly. We made sure that this years was being paid, and the extra amount being used to clear the arrears. We have not contacted them, or been contacted by them, since setting this arrangement up earlier in the year. I've been reading that we should have received various letters about court summons, bailiffs and possibly a couple of others but we haven't received any. We did receive a council tax statement around May, so they definitely have the correct address on file, and this statement said this years council tax wasn't in arrears. They were initially doing everything correctly, but for some reason, stopped honouring it, leaving us in this mess.

My partner has confirmed the council say we owe 1020, but the bailiffs are saying we owe 1271.47. No information as to why this cost is higher, but it does say we can pay an initial payment of 150. I don't have the letter to hand but can report its wording this evening, and it is the first letter/contact we've had from the bailiff.

My partner has been to the CAB who advised her to make an appointment to see the council, and obtain copies of the letters they have supposidly sent us, so she will do this tomorrow. I'd be quite happy to just pay the council off on my 0% credit card and pay that back, and put an end to all this. If we offered to pay the council directly, should they accept this then cancel the bailiffs?

Last edited by ajarnold; 05-12-2012 at 4:58 PM.
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# 4
RAS
Old 05-12-2012, 5:19 PM
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Hi

First things

1.Bailiffs are not allowed in your house unless you invite them in, so kkeep them out.

2. Do you have a car? In whose name?

Regarding the mess, can I suggest you start by finding out who your local councillor(s) are and send them an e-mail explqaining the problems and asking to meet them at the next surgery. They may well be able to lever the debt back in-house.
The person who has not made a mistake, has made nothing
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# 5
CIS
Old 05-12-2012, 6:30 PM
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Quote:
1.Bailiffs are not allowed in your house unless you invite them in, so keep them out.
Or they peacefully enter through an open door or window for which an invite isn't needed.
I work in Council Tax Recovery however my views are my own reading of the law and you should always check with the local authority in question.
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# 6
ajarnold
Old 05-12-2012, 10:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RAS View Post
Hi

First things

1.Bailiffs are not allowed in your house unless you invite them in, so kkeep them out.

2. Do you have a car? In whose name?

Regarding the mess, can I suggest you start by finding out who your local councillor(s) are and send them an e-mail explqaining the problems and asking to meet them at the next surgery. They may well be able to lever the debt back in-house.
We have three cars, but only one is in her name. She's been advised to park it a couple of streets away.

I've been reading on the net all evening and as she's 7 months pregnant, she's classed as vulnerable which might give her some sort of break. .
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# 7
Red_dog_Sam
Old 06-12-2012, 9:50 AM
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Meeting with the Council is the right first step. Your partner can prove payments covering the current year have been made so should tell the council to correctly allocate payments to the current year. With proof that the "debt" was paid, you should also seek confirmation that the bailiff action has been withdrawn and that costs and fees have been cancelled. As you also point out , at 7 months pregnant your partner can be considered "vulnerable" and this should be taken into account too. As RAS suggests, your local councillor might take up the case and apply some pressure if the council staff don't shift - it's difficult to see how they could justify continuing with bailiff action against a pregnant woman who can prove they have paid.
Try and agree instalments by direct debit which will ensure continued collection and correct allocation of funds. If you do opt to pay by credit card just be aware that there is likely to be a credit card fee usually between 1.5% and 2%.
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# 8
DS4215
Old 06-12-2012, 10:23 AM
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Do you live together? - in which case the current bill will be joint and all three cars can be levied on.
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# 9
ajarnold
Old 06-12-2012, 5:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Red_dog_Sam View Post
Meeting with the Council is the right first step. Your partner can prove payments covering the current year have been made so should tell the council to correctly allocate payments to the current year. With proof that the "debt" was paid, you should also seek confirmation that the bailiff action has been withdrawn and that costs and fees have been cancelled. As you also point out , at 7 months pregnant your partner can be considered "vulnerable" and this should be taken into account too. As RAS suggests, your local councillor might take up the case and apply some pressure if the council staff don't shift - it's difficult to see how they could justify continuing with bailiff action against a pregnant woman who can prove they have paid.
Try and agree instalments by direct debit which will ensure continued collection and correct allocation of funds. If you do opt to pay by credit card just be aware that there is likely to be a credit card fee usually between 1.5% and 2%.
My partner informs me the council were very unhelpful and didn't want to know, the same story that it's gone to the bailiffs (Rossendales) who are dealing with it. They did give her a council tax phone number to call, which I did who inform me I should write a letter to the recovery manager. I mentioned she was pregnant so they've put the bailiffs on hold for two weeks.

The council also agreed to let me pay them the outstanding amount directly, plus the 1.5% fee which I have done so, but sadly this hasn't withdrawn the bailiffs involvement. The council said they will only do that if they admit this was there mistake, but we may still have to pay the bailiffs fees anyway? That doesn't make sense that.

Will update once they reply to the letter I'm sending tomorrow.

Thanks guys for your help so far
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# 10
ajarnold
Old 06-12-2012, 5:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DS4215 View Post
Do you live together? - in which case the current bill will be joint and all three cars can be levied on.
Yes, but the tenancy is in my partners name only. She also has rent arrears which need to be cleared before my name can be added. All under control, just need a bit more time. Her stupid X got her in such a financial mess, cards, council tax, etc.
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# 11
RAS
Old 06-12-2012, 5:38 PM
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Which bailiffs?

You are aware that Equita are owned by the same people as Capita and capita run a lot of Council Tax back Offices?

General rule is that if CT Office is Capita and Equita are involved, you need to speak to the councillors not the COUNCIL.
The person who has not made a mistake, has made nothing
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# 12
ajarnold
Old 06-12-2012, 5:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RAS View Post
Which bailiffs?

You are aware that Equita are owned by the same people as Capita and capita run a lot of Council Tax back Offices?

General rule is that if CT Office is Capita and Equita are involved, you need to speak to the councillors not the COUNCIL.
It's Rossendales who are involved
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# 13
DS4215
Old 07-12-2012, 9:25 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ajarnold View Post
Yes, but the tenancy is in my partners name only. She also has rent arrears which need to be cleared before my name can be added. All under control, just need a bit more time. Her stupid X got her in such a financial mess, cards, council tax, etc.
I don't think it matters whose name is on the tenancy agreement. As an adult you should be paying council tax for where *you* are living. If she is claiming single person benefit (as if you are not living there) then she is breaking the law. If she is not then it is a joint bill and your cars can be levied on.
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# 14
Red_dog_Sam
Old 07-12-2012, 9:53 AM
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OK. They will've been reluctant to help because the council will have to pay the bailiff fees if they are in error. The recovery manager will have the authority to cancel bailiff action and fees. If you can, send copies of payment receipts that show enough was paid to pay up the current year along with your letter. Make sure you point out that an arrangement had been agreed. That payments were made. That they incorrectly allocated the funds (this is the bit that makes it the council's mistake). That you have now paid in full. That your partner is vulnerable and that the handling of the matter has caused her undue stress during her pregnancy and so bailiff action was inappropriate. If the bailiff fees exceed 42.50 they will be charging more than they are allowed to based on their involvement so far - so if that is the case make sure you also question the legality of the fees. That you want bailiff fees and summons costs cancelled. Cosider copying in the local councillor to add more pressure.
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