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Paying for housemates Council Tax - liability and court action

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Hi everyone,

 

I'm due in court on Friday for non-payment of council tax. I had thought it would be a simple case of explaining their mistake on Friday and that would be that... until I read about some of the cases on this forum.

 

When I moved in last year there were 2 other people living there already. One, a student who moved out a month into my tenancy and another, an unemployed alcoholic who I'll call "Mr. A" and who didn't claim any benefits and lived off an inheritance. My tenancy agreement had only my name on it though I don't have a signed copy (though I may be able to prove that the landlord emailed it to me before I moved in).

 

Prior to moving into the house I had only been told about said alcoholic that he was "quiet and keeps himself to himself" - not that he was a sometimes threatening, delusional alcoholic. This was by a previous tenant, and though Mr. A had lived there 2 years the landlord hadn't actually met him himself - I believe he didn't even have a contract.

 

As I was on Incapacity Benefit my Housing Benefit covered most of my rent and council tax. By August it was just myself and Mr. A living there (I presume the student who was there a month didn't pay any council tax) and I recognised Council Tax bills being posted to him. I would get calls from my landlord saying that Mr. A was behind on his council tax and that he would be taken to court if it didn't get paid. Mr A never answered his phone to the landlord so I would remind him about it. As far as I was aware he was paying it as letters stopped coming from the council for a while. I would see him going into town with the bill and then coming back. The couple of times my landlord visited, he asked to see the receipts for the council tax being paid but they could never be found.

 

Mr A eventually ran out of money around March and had to move back home with his mother to, as far as I know, a different county (no forwarding address).

 

Right before he left more letters and bills were coming from the council asking for payment though he acted confused saying as far as he knew he had paid the whole lot for the year.

 

I never received a bill myself - only letters saying my Council Tax benefit was awarded (I have a few of those as my circumstances changed a couple of times with IB appeals and IS claims). I even went into the Council at one point (Jan/Feb '09) as I'd seen one of the letters saying "other liable people" and my name on it that had been left in the kitchen. The woman I spoke to got quite frustrated with me saying of course I didn't have to pay I was on benefits - I was really concerned and kept checking with her to make sure which is when she got quite exasperated and I left it alone presuming that she was right and I was being paranoid. I don't know if that visit would have been logged on my file. She told me she didn't have any of the tenants names down as being liable but the landlord's! When I said the bills had been sent to Mr A, she shook her head and shrugged saying no that couldn't be she had the landlord's name as the liable person.

 

I also spoke to the council after I had moved out in late April as I had a bill sent to my new address. The woman I spoke to said to leave it to her and she would look into it. There had been another tenant who had lived with Mr A - he had moved in in November '08. Though we didn't really get on I phoned him to warn him that we may be liable for it - he said the landlord was sorting it out. I'm not sure if the landlord has now angled the blame at me - or even if he could do that as a landlord. I'm considering taking him to court and he knows that, since he denies my deposit being handed over and it wasn't in a deposit protection scheme.

 

I do have a copy of a letter my landlord sent the council in October stating that Mr A was liable for the council tax and not me as I was on benefits.

 

However... I believe now that I will be liable. How I can be charged and taken to court for a man's council tax that I didn't even know or wish to know just because I lived in the same property as him I don't know. Especially as I wasn't informed. I've written a letter to the council explaining everything but nothing back yet. I suppose I don't have time to request any information from them now as I'm in court on Friday.. is there any way to reschedule my court date so I can gather more evidence? Or is there no point since just by renting a room in a house I'm liable for everyone else who lives there?

 

Thankyou for any help. I'm expecting there's little I can do but would like to somehow fight this. I may go to see my local MP if there's any point. But if I'm just straight up liable then that's that I suppose...

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