Landlord threatening Debt collection over Council Tax

Hi,

I live in a shared house with my friends. Three of us are full time students, one is working but does receive housing benefit, the other is on Disability Living Allowance, ESA and housing benefit.

At the beginning of the year our estate agent told us we all need to sort out our Council Tax individually, after much back and forth with the council we sorted this. And subsequently correspondence from the council was sent to any individuals who were meant to pay. (which was only a single individual).

We recently received a letter from our estate agent demanding something like £300 each for council tax and that we had 7 days to pay it.

Yesterday our landlord and estate agent came into our house (in the morning, without 24 hours written or spoken notice) and threatened bailiff action, as the landlord was billed for £1700 and had a court summons if he did not pay.

We visited the civic centre and explained the situation, they confirmed that students would be exempt and the other 2 would receive a varying amount of discount.

We passed this on to our landlord and he then spent 2 hours speaking to them, only for them to say that was wrong completely - and he's not entitled to any refund on this.

So naturally he's coming back to us and putting pressure to sort it, its in our contract that we must pay the council tax if the landlord is billed. It's a group contract as well, so the students in the group are liable.

Where do we go from here? It's misinformation after misinformation and we're being made to look like the villain.

Any help would be welcome, thanks.
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  • CISCIS Forumite
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    We visited the civic centre and explained the situation, they confirmed that students would be exempt and the other 2 would receive a varying amount of discount.
    If that was the case then it potentially alters the whole aspect of who is liable - either the landlord is liable (based on the type of tenancy) and there will no council tax discount or the tenants are liable (and should be the one's receiving the bill) in which case there discount will depend on any council tax support which is paid.

    This is the important part :

    What is the contract you have on the property - do you each rent an individual room or is it a shared contract for the entire property ?. Is the property adapted for multiple occupancy or registered as a House in Multiple Occupation ?.
    I no longer work in Council Tax Recovery but instead work as a specialist Council Tax paralegal assisting landlords and Council Tax payers with council tax disputes and valuation tribunals. My views are my own reading of the law and you should always check with the local authority in question.
  • KashinodaKashinoda Forumite
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    CIS wrote: »
    If that was the case then it potentially alters the whole aspect of who is liable - either the landlord is liable (based on the type of tenancy) and there will no council tax discount or the tenants are liable (and should be the one's receiving the bill) in which case there discount will depend on any council tax support which is paid.

    This is the important part :

    What is the contract you have on the property - do you each rent an individual room or is it a shared contract for the entire property ?. Is the property adapted for multiple occupancy or registered as a House in Multiple Occupation ?.

    Our contract says 'Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement', the contract is a shared one between the 5 of us. We went through a student lettings agent.

    The contract states under 'Tenant Obligations'

    "To be responsible for payment of council tax (or any similar charge replacing council tax) during the tenancy in respect of the premises or if the landlord pays it, to reimburse the landlord."

    I believe the house may be classed as a HIMO, it was initially a standard house that has had locks put on the individual doors etc. I'm not sure how they go about classing these things.

    Would that not be irrelevant anyway if the contracts puts us as liable either way?
  • CISCIS Forumite
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    Our contract says 'Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement', the contract is a shared one between the 5 of us. We went through a student lettings agent.
    In which case the landlord isn't liable for the council tax charge - it rests on the tenants, which in this case would be the non-students, and the council should be notified of this.
    I believe the house may be classed as a HIMO, it was initially a standard house that has had locks put on the individual doors etc. I'm not sure how they go about classing these things.
    Locks on doors wouldn't make it a HMO .
    Would that not be irrelevant anyway if the contracts puts us as liable either way?
    The contract cannot override the determination of liability for council tax - it affects only the contract you have with the landlord. The terms are quite standard, it allows the landlord to recover it from the occupiers in properties which are HMO's and the landlord has to pay it.
    I no longer work in Council Tax Recovery but instead work as a specialist Council Tax paralegal assisting landlords and Council Tax payers with council tax disputes and valuation tribunals. My views are my own reading of the law and you should always check with the local authority in question.
  • KashinodaKashinoda Forumite
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    CIS wrote: »
    In which case the landlord isn't liable for the council tax charge - it rests on the tenants, which in this case would be the non-students, and the council should be notified of this.

    Locks on doors wouldn't make it a HMO .

    The contract cannot override the determination of liability for council tax - it affects only the contract you have with the landlord. The terms are quite standard, it allows the landlord to recover it from the occupiers in properties which are HMO's and the landlord has to pay it.

    If the landlord is not liable, is it then a mistake that he was billed (and received a court summons) in the first place?

    None of us mind being individually liable for our own council tax, but this entire debt is being split up and thrown at all of us collectively, including myself as a full time student.

    And like I said, initially we were sent copies of things individually.
  • CISCIS Forumite
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    If the landlord is not liable, is it then a mistake that he was billed (and received a court summons) in the first place?

    From what you've posted it should never have been in his name.
    None of us mind being individually liable for our own council tax, but this entire debt is being split up and thrown at all of us collectively, including myself as a full time student.

    Only by way of the landlord - under the correct council tax liability it's the two non-students who are jointly liable for the full council tax charge.
    I no longer work in Council Tax Recovery but instead work as a specialist Council Tax paralegal assisting landlords and Council Tax payers with council tax disputes and valuation tribunals. My views are my own reading of the law and you should always check with the local authority in question.
  • KashinodaKashinoda Forumite
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    CIS wrote: »
    From what you've posted it should never have been in his name.



    Only by way of the landlord - under the correct council tax liability it's the two non-students who are jointly liable for the full council tax charge.

    Thanks a lot for your help bud, appreciate it.

    Will be heading back to the civic centre tomorrow with a little ammunition at least.

    Is there any official pages I could find online that would support this?
  • CISCIS Forumite
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    In what respect ? - regarding student liability ?

    If so then section 6 of the local government finance act 1992 (as amended by the local government finance act 2003) is the one you need.
    I no longer work in Council Tax Recovery but instead work as a specialist Council Tax paralegal assisting landlords and Council Tax payers with council tax disputes and valuation tribunals. My views are my own reading of the law and you should always check with the local authority in question.
  • KashinodaKashinoda Forumite
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    Cheers CIS, I took a look at that this morning and actually realised my younger brother qualified for SMI so was fully exempt.

    However when we went to see an advisor we went round in a bit of a circle again.

    She told us as the house is 'multiple occupancy' then the landlord is solely liable for the council tax, meaning we need to pay it as our contract states so.

    She said however that there should be reductions if evidence is given to them by the landlord that we are:

    2 full time students
    1 was a full time student until January
    1 person who qualifies for SMI
    1 person working

    We asked her if the guy who's working would have to pay the brunt of £1367. She said it 'should' divide out between the five of us, meaning the council tax bill 'should' be £273.4 for the guy who works, plus whatever the remaining is for guy who finished Uni in January.

    She didn't say any of this with much conviction and couldn't give us a definite on anything in particular.

    Really frustrating, I've tried to put this all nicely in writing for the landlord in the hope he has calmed down. :(
  • CISCIS Forumite
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    She told us as the house is 'multiple occupancy' then the landlord is solely liable for the council tax, meaning we need to pay it as our contract states so.

    She doesn't seem to understand the regulations.

    The council tax (liability for owners) regulations 1992 (as amended) state the following definition of a council tax HMO
    Class C a dwelling which
    (a)was originally constructed or subsequently adapted for occupation by persons who do not constitute a single household;
    and
    (b)is inhabited by a person who, or by two or more persons each of whom either—
    (i)is a tenant of, or has a licence to occupy, part only of the dwelling; or
    (ii)has a licence to occupy, but is not liable (whether alone or jointly with other persons) to pay rent or a licence fee in respect of, the dwelling as a whole.”.

    If it doesn't meet this criteria then it cannot be a HMO and therefore the tenants are liable - the council has no discretion in the matter (locks on doors don't make it 'adapted')
    I no longer work in Council Tax Recovery but instead work as a specialist Council Tax paralegal assisting landlords and Council Tax payers with council tax disputes and valuation tribunals. My views are my own reading of the law and you should always check with the local authority in question.
  • KashinodaKashinoda Forumite
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    Sorry for the late reply CIS, been busy moving over the weekend. Again thanks for replying.

    We're currently in a massive session of pass the back and the landlord has gone back to the agents with this.

    I'm going to see what they say then I'll come back at them with what you've quoted, as right now I've moved back home.
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