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Everything posted by revshelp

  1. As far as I am aware a council is a statutory public body and not a company, though in certain circumstances they may be empowered by an Act of Parliament to carry out limited "trading activities". Historically some may have been have had a body corporate and the City of London still does but this is a left over of a much older system - but not a corporation in the sense of a business. With regards to the Liability order hearing there are a number of defences available but these tend to be procedural/technical matters. Once a liability order has been granted its hard, but not impossible, to have it revoked.
  2. A Liability Order debt has gone through the 'recovery' process including the Magistrates Court, and this allows the council to take a number of steps to reclaim outstanding arrears, namely bailiff, attachment of earnings/benefits, bankruptcy, charging order, or ultimately possibly jail. Where as the un-summon's debt is payable either as a lump sum or more likely instalments, but this may also end up in court if you don't keep up with payments. To get the debt recalled from the bailiff you need to get the agreement of the council, who would only do this if you pay off the bailiff's costs first. Its important to try and keep paying the unsummonsed debt first to stop additional costs being added, even though perhaps the LO debt can be seen as more of a priority because of the action they could take. (NB. if the bill was in your fathers name when the LO was granted then this will become void, if they're now billing you for the same period.) With such a large balance I would suggest preparing a statement of Income and Expenditure and send this along with a letter/email offering a monthly repayment, there are free templates on the interment but organisations like CAB, Christians Against Poverty, Shelter, etc can all help - i'd advise against going to a debt management company as they charge you for a service you can get freely from charities or do yourself. Its obviously important to sort out the SPD issue and getting hold of the necessary evidence asap. If the council are still not persuaded you can take the matter up with the http://www.valuation-tribunals-wales.org.uk.
  3. Probably not, until the Band was altered by the Valuation Office, or on appeal by the Valuation Tribunal, the Council were obliged to bill you in accordance with the official Band shown in the Valuation List and unfortunately there was no right to withhold the payment. They only way to be sure is to contact your council and speak to the senior officer in charge.
  4. I would say that keeping on top of the current years bill is the most important thing to do, as in many cases trying to clear the arrears first just creates a vicious cycle. Depending on the council, cost are either applied in full at the summons stage or in 2 lots of charges are applied once for the summons and then again for the liability hearing. The costs must be 'reasonably incurred' by the council and if you choose to attend you could challenge the level in court. The bailiff can't force entry but if doors and window are open they can walk in. If you have a car they could 'levy' against it so it may be worth you moving it elsewhere if you can. If you can enter into discussions with the council early on (ideally before the court date) you may be able to negotiate a payment plan and avoid the bailiff altogether. It may be worth preparing a Income and Expenditure statement, there are free templates on the web or organisations like CAB can help. Just so your aware the council can also take other action rather than sending the bailiff such as:- deductions from earnings/benefits, bankruptcy proceedings, charging order (if your an owner-occupier) or in rare circumstances committal to prison.
  5. Council tax is a 'hybrid property tax' rather than a charge for services provided - even though the amount payable is actually calculated on the financial needs of the council (they should have included a information on spending in leaflet with the annual bill or published it on their website). The main legislation can be read hear http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1992/14/contents. Sadly just like Income Tax or VAT, I don't know of any option of opting out of paying.
  6. I believe there is a 3 month exemption on empty commercial business premisses, so you should get this what ever the circumstances. If the property is then 're-occupied' gain for 6 weeks a further 3 months could be claimed. The liability is determined by 4 components of 'rateable occupation' actual, exclusive, beneficial and transient - if your not having any benefit from the lease then perhaps you may not be liable but you need to get advise of a ratings lawyer. Could you try sub-letting the property for the rest of the term? If you were to stop paying rent, would you forfeit the lease of the property, in which case you would not be liable? I don't know about the legality of this route!?
  7. Council Tax is calculated on a daily basis. So any decrease in the band will proportionally reduce the benefit and any other discount or exemption you may have received. As its all computerised then it should recalculate the chargeable amount and benefit based on the new banding automatically. They certainly won't refund you any amount which you haven't personally paid over.
  8. You should consider contacting the council to ask if the council tax arrears are enforceable from the period you were bankrupt, I think it should effective be written-off. Council Tax is usually seen as a priority debt, completing the I&E will be a good starting point, and will give you a stronger position to negotiate with the Council. Be careful though as you own your own home if the arrears are over £1000 the council could seek a 'Charging Order' on your property.
  9. The VT's main areas of appeal are valuation band, liability, discounts and exemptions. Benefit appeals I think are dealt with separately by the Social Security (or similar) Tribunals, though since the changes on 1 April I have a feeling this may have changed?? Its a shame that all matters aren't dealt with by the same court/tribunal it wold certainly make things a lot smoother. But I guess the assumption is that once it gets to the Magistrates Court that underling matters have already been resolved and its just the failure to pay that outstanding. (From personal experience I know this is often not the case people tend to leave things go until they get a summons.) That's scandalous!...not only are the costs open to challenge as the have not been 'reasonably incurred'...its poor budget management, surely they can't rely on individuals falling into arrears to fund a service - i'm sure a complaint for maladministration to the Ombudsman is in order
  10. I totally agree that case law sets a precedent which is binding on the lower courts and that theres established law on proportionality of costs, etc. I personally see Statute as creating a framework and Case Law filling the gaps, with both complimenting each other. With regards to costs the to principal pieces of legislation to refer to for Council Tax would be: Section 34 The Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement) Regulations 1992 Section 64 Magistrates' Court Act 1980 How a council should go about calculation the costs applied for isn't clearly set out, the basic cost of a summons and liability order I think is around £10-20. So it would all depend on what else is being included such as the council's court officer's time, but I imagine that most costs would be covered by general administration budget.
  11. There is no physical piece of paper called an order, the clerk to the justices will note the decision of the court in the records, which I imagine will have an unique reference of some kind. I don't know whether the court records are open to be view by the public or if you can request a copy of the entry under the DPA or FOI.
  12. I don'k now if theres is a legal definition of "offence" and wouldn't want to give a definite answer. Referring to the dictionary it seems fairly wide definition, possibly leaning towards criminal more than civil. I would still say council tax was civil concern, nowhere in Sections 34-36 of The Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement) Regulations 1992 does it refer to an offence being committed, and the magistrates court don't issued a conviction, sentence or criminal record. I think its more likely to fall within Sections 51 and 58 of the Magistrates' Court Act 1980. This is why I don't personally believe there is a right of appeal to the Crown Court under Section 108, and from what I've read sub-section 108(3)(b) specifically excluded appeal against the award of costs.
  13. I fully agree with the need for more clarity when costs are applied for, especially if the costs are the only amount outstanding at the liability hearing. I imagine the Council would argue that the costs they put forward would be the minimum level, and as not all customers turn up to the hearing that they have an obligation to inform what they intend to apply for. Obviously each case could well be different, and it should be up to the Magistrates Court to decide and for the defendant to challenge the level of award if any. How common this is or how likely a defendant is to succeed I don't know. It is can be though of as a breach of contract (though this is not technically right definition, perhaps more correctly a ?breach of statute?) as payments have to be made by prescribed instalments. It is not a Criminal offence but a civil matter as the Billing Authority as the plaintiff has no law enforcement role. The cost themselves should not be considered as a fine. (But as you point out you can be held in contempt of court once a liability order has been granted and you fail to provide information.) The committal for not payment is not a punishment, but a tool at the councils/courts disposal to coerce payment. It is definitely not a criminal sanction in this context. The Magistrates court are acting as a CIVIL JUDICIAL body under the relevant parts of the Magistrates Court Act 1980 and NOT an Administrative court. They must base their decision to grant a liability order based on the facts presented by the Plaintiff namely: The Council Tax has been set by the Authority The house appears in the Valuation List The amount has been demanded That Reminder/Final Notices have been issued That the summons has been issued And, the amount, including costs, has not been paid. And that Council Tax payer as the defendant has the right to make a defence, including against the costs. Certain defences can not be used as they fall under the jurisdiction of the 'Valuation Tribunals'. In reality this does not happen either as the defendant does not turn up or because the council officer dissuades the payer from appearing and to make an agreement, which is why the process has been seen to fall into disrepute as a rubber stamping exercise. There is NO APPEAL to the Crown Court as it is not a Criminal matter, the Crown Court being a court of first instance for criminal cases. The official appeals process is by way of 'Case Stated' using Section 111 Magistrates’ Court Act 1980 to the High Court or by way of judicial review.
  14. The magistrates court is acting as a civil court when dealing with Council Tax. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magistrates'_court_(England_and_Wales) I'm not sure why this is the case, possibly because it won't affect your credit rating like a CCJ?
  15. Form a council tax point of view this is incorrect, if your son has his main residence elsewhere then he should not be treated as resident at your property (irrespective of any lease) and consequently only you should be libel for the council tax. Which would entitle you to Council Tax Reduction Scheme on 100% of the charge.
  16. Hi, sounds like positive news. Once the arrears have been passed to a bailiff for collection, they add there own charges and are on contract/commission with the council, so the council will mostly refer you back to the bailiff if you try to make an agreement or payment. But if you paying online or set-up a standing order then they can't reject the payment and will credit that against the outstanding debts. One thing to note is that as the 2013-14 year is starting soon depending how their cash allocation works on their computer, any monies you pay maybe placed against the current years charge and not the arrears. As a person who suffers with depression, you may be classed as vulnerable according to the councils 'Fair Debt Collection Policy' and so they shouldn't really be instructing a bailiff in the first instance. As well as applying for the 25% 'Single Person's Discount' you should also consider applying for 'Council Tax Benefit'/'Council Tax Reduction Scheme' to cover part of the other 75% of the bill - this is means tested on income and savings so it will depend on your individual circumstances.
  17. According to Section 9(2) Local Government Finance Act 1992 (amended by Section 74 Local Government Act 2003 ) joint and several liability will not apply where a person is disregarded as a student.
  18. Hi, given your circumstances your unlikely to go to prison, in this instance the threat of prison is a coercive tool to get you to pay. The two reasons the magistrates could goal you is if the council demonstrates (1) will full refusal or (2) culpable neglect in not paying. Both of which from what you've said you can adequately prove. The court has the power to set repayment amounts or even write-off the arrears. You may want to provide the court with a financial statement something Citizens Advice (CAB) should be able to help you with or there's diy ones on line. At this stage the council may not be interested in negotiation, but it depends on each officer to some extent. The unfortunate truth is as its got this far may mean, that they want to leave the process take its course, but theres no harm in speaking to them or to start making payments to reduce the arrears. People don't generally have a lawyer in these type of hearings however if you are entitled to legal aid can apply for a lawyer I don't know that there are many specialising in Council Tax matters though. You are also allowed "the assistance of a friend" in presenting your case or for support, CAB may offer to help you on the day. I think for the future its important that you apply for Council Tax Benefit asap, you can apply for backdating for up to 6 months but you will need to demonstrate a good reason as to why you didn't apply at the time. Good luck with every thing, make sure you've got support and don't leave all this overwhelm you!
  19. I think its 14 days (not sure if thats business days) for the first payment, then at intervals of no less than a month for the following instalments.
  20. The council has to be satisfied that the discount their 'awarding' is genuine, as they have a responsibility to safeguard public funds. Equally they do have a responsibility to ensure that people are made aware of what discounts are available and are receiving them. As you can imagine anyone can say someone has moved out, so the council want to verify this in someway and a forwarding address is usually the easiest. It may be worth your friend speaking to a senior officer or manager, they may well accept a written statement of some kind. Is there any other proof that she can supply that her ex-husband has left, e.g. emails, letters? If all else fails she has the right to appeal to the 'Valuation Tribunal' to adjudicate on the matter.
  21. The abolition of council tax benefit (CTB) has been in the news but hasn't caught the imagination of the press and politicians to the same extent as the 'bed room tax' even though it has the potential to affect more people. Each council was supposed to consult on the proposed Council Tax Support Scheme (CTS) they were introduction, i know my local council wrote to all claimants asking them for their opinion. As the above post says central government has cut the funding for the new scheme by 10% and also protected pensioners, so working age people like your daughter will experience 15-20% cut depending on what scheme your local council adopts. Saying that £60 per month seems a huge cut given the modest sized property she is living in. Its hard to advise as there is now a patchwork of different schemes, some local authorities have started counting Child Benefit as income (this was excluded in the old Council Tax Benefit). You and your daughter need to look at the benefit decision notice and try to reed through the local regulations/guidelines to try and get an idea of whats going on.
  22. Hi, you may be able to challenge the effective date of the band change but for an official appeal to the 'Valuation Tribunal' i think you have to lodge it within six month. Generally if the band has changed from E to D because of an error in originally valuing the property the valuation office has to go back and change the band from the date of the error. With regards to the benefit its calculated in proportion to your income and the band of the property, so if the ban changes the benefit would normally change also. I know that normally the will only look to backdate benefits for six months if its in the favour of the customer but i think they can go back as far as they want if theres an overpayment. But there is an issue of proportionality here and you should consider making a formal complaint and also asking for a 'discretionary discount'. The Interpretation Act does set a six year limit on enforcement, but as the band has only recently changed the clock will only start from now.
  23. The court can reopen a liability hearing and cancel the court order in exceptional circumstances, such as a miscarriage of justice. As the notices and summons was improperly served then you have a good case. I'm not sure how you would go about it, probably best to either visit the local magistrates court or phone the senior justices' clerk/executive officer. Try to pay as much as you can of whats owed directly to the council now, if you can. Good luck.
  24. If she spends 2-3 nights a week on a regular basis at her mothers property, has her mail delivered there, is registered with her work, doctors, to vote, etc, and keeps the majority of her belongings there - then in all likelihood it would be considered her main or only home. If they are adamant that she is not living at the property then they should appeal to the Tribunal, but I think they would need to provide compelling evidence that your friend has either another property which is her main home or that she is truly of not fixed abode.
  25. There are no rules stating how many liability orders you can have against your name at any one time. Some people have 3 or more. The bailiff is using scare tactics and being disingenuous when talking about committal. The council can only proceed to committal if the case has been returned from the bailiff stating there's insufficient goods, but, there's no time frame set down and the council would more than likely willing to negotiate repayment with you directly before taking the step of going back to court as its both costly and the court can (but not likely) write off the debt. If your in work, or receiving benefits, then the council can make deductions directly from your employer which may be better for you.
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