Ok, are you sitting down with your chosen beverage to hand as this could be a long and interesting one!
In April 2009 a DVLA "Clamping Partner" towed and impounded my car. The reason? They claimed it was being kept on a public road whilst declared SORN. The reality? It was parked in my privately owned parking space outside my privately owned residence. Cue a long, drawn out argument with the clamping partner, me saying it was parked on private land and here's my proof, them saying we don't care we say its a public road. The DVLA removed themselves from the argument saying they don't get involved in disputes regarding public/private land and if the clamping partner took the car then they did so correctly as they know the rules.
At this stage I was planning on scrapping the car anyway so there was no way I was going to pay them to release it. If they wanted to hold on to it and eventually crush it they're welcome to, it saves me the effort.
Fast forward 7 months to November 2009 and I get a phone call from the Clamping Partner saying they were releasing my car without charge and after a bit of an argument they agreed to return it to the location it was towed from (my privately owned parking space). No apology, no nothing, I guess they realised the error of their ways and wanted to use the space in the pound for a vehicle that someone was willing to pay to release.
Well the vehicle was never returned to me. As far as I was aware the clamping partner couldn't be bothered to bring it back to me. That's not what the DVLA records say though. More on that in a moment.
Fast forward another 13 months to the present day and I've received a Debt Recovery Notice from a debt collection agency on behalf of the DVLA. They are wanting an £80 out of court settlement as I am the registered keeper of an unlicensed vehicle (unlicensed since April 2010). Well yes, I suppose that is factually correct, I am still the registered keeper and it isn't licensed.
This is where we go back to the DVLA records of the seizure and subsequent release of my car. After a few phone calls I have found out that the records state that the vehicle was indeed returned to me in Nov 09 and apparently include photographic evidence of the return along with a note to say they left me a voicemail informing me of it's return. The car was never returned to me, the road I live on or a reasonable distance from it. The voicemail doesn't exist either. The DVLA records then apparently go on to say that the car was seized and returned a second time under the same circumstances, however this time there is no record mentioning them trying to inform me of the situation. I haven't seen my car since the day it was taken back in April 2009. The records say it was returned to me but it wasn't and no one can tell me where the vehicle is. It has to all intents and purposes disappeared.
So I'm left with a debt recovery notice for being the registered keeper of an unlicensed vehicle. Great. How on earth was I supposed to license a vehicle that has gone missing?! I can't make a factually correct SORN declaration as I cannot declare that the vehicle will be kept off public roads. I can't tax it as I don't know where it is to get it MOT'd etc. I can't de-register as the registered keeper and I haven't sold, transferred to the motor trade or exported the vehicle. I couldn't even report it as stolen because as far as the Police are concerned the DVLA seized it rather than stole it.
It's a complete catch 22. The debt recovery notice is correct, I am the registered keeper of an unlicensed vehicle. But only because I had no way of not being the registered keeper or licensing the vehicle. Even if I pay the £80 the situation still won't be resolved as the car will still be unlicensed.
Does anyone have any suggestions as to how I should approach this one?
There is one part of the debt recovery notice that particularly amused me though. They state that if I do not pay the out of court settlement immediately legal action may commence and they might clamp or impound the vehicle. They'll have to find it first!!!
As this one is still ongoing I wonder if anyone has any advice?
I've ended up having to pay the fine as it had been passed from a debt collection agency to a solicitor and legal action was about to start. I hope to claim this back somehow but if I have to take the hit for now then so be it.
The problem is the vehicle still isn't declared SORN. I've spoken to the DVLA again (I'm awaiting a response to a letter I wrote to them last month) who agree that I would be making a false declaration if I filled out a SORN application whilst not knowing where the vehicle is. They recommended I speak to the police again.
On phoning the police I spoke to a very helpful officer who had been through a similar situation himself (has received complaints re his SORN car parked in a private bay which people think is a road). He spoke to his sergeant and they agreed to report my car as stolen. Situation solved I thought!
Then this morning I get a call from another officer who was looking into the case. She takes the same line that was originally taken in April 2009. As it was the DVLA who took the vehicle it hasn't been stolen. Unless I can get the DVLA to write to the police stating when they returned the vehicle and the location it was returned to then it can't be reported as stolen.
So I'm still stuck in the situation where the car isn't declared SORN or taxed and isn't listed as stolen so I'm still open to any fines the DVLA care to throw at me.
If the DVLA say you owe them money, then you can either accept an out of court settlement or go to the magistrates court. The magistrates might accept your story especially if you have a record of any early correspondence to the DVLA at the time when your last tax disc or SORN ran out.
If you didn't contact DVLA then you could find you end up with a bigger fine from the court than the out of court settlement you have been offered.
To protect yourself for the future, as you are not the keeper of the car, I suggest you write to DVLA explaining where the car is and who you think is the keeper, ideally using the tear off slip on the registered keeper certificate. Keep copies and produce these to DVLA and a court if necessary for any bills that would run up after the date of the letter.
Do make sure you reply to any letters from DVLA or a magistrates court though or you can be found guilty in your absence (that's what happens to most people).