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Council Tax demand years after liability (complex scenario)


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Hello all,

 

I'd be grateful if you could provide some advice on a Council Tax issue. It's not 100% straightforward so I'll try to give as complete a description as I can.

 

I lived and studies as a full-time uni student in Aberdeen yrs 2001-2005. In my last academic session I stayed in a privately rented flat with a fellow student from September 2004 to April 2005.

 

Last month, my parents (I no longer reside with them) received several letters from Aberdeen City council demanding council Taxt payments for the address that I had stayed at in Aberdeen for 2004-05, 2005-06 and 2006-07 totalling nearly an eye-watering £3000.

 

The addressees were my former flatmate and a name which resembles my own but isn't quite (i.e. let's say I am John Smith and the letter was addressed to Robert Smith).

 

As my actual name was not on the letter or demand notice, my mum simply sent them back to Aberdeen with a note to say that neither of the addressees are, or ever have been, known at her address. That is factually correct, so no wrongdoing there, surely?

 

Unfortunately, more letters have now arrived addressed to the same names. These have not been opened (and yes, I know it was very silly to open the first batch but my dad picks mail up and opens it without reading the address lable :roll:)

 

So, as the letters do not officially address me, and nor do I live at the address to which they have been sent, is it acceptable for us to keep sending them back as 'not known at this address'?

 

I'm also confused as to why they think I should be liablefor 2005-06 and 2006-07 when I had long gone from the flat. Also, I have not maintained contact with my former flatmate and have now way of contacting him now.

 

I am obviously the intended recipient but I do not want to establish contact with them about this as that would legitimise their demand and reveal my current whereabouts and real identity (to be clear, I did not provide them with a false ID originally, I don't know why they got it wrong - I mean how would they have found my mum and dad's address otherwise?).

 

I am a worrier and get stressed out by things like this very easily because I play everything in life by the book and I just cannot afford £3000, especially as they are claiming for a period that I didn't live there, never mind the fact that I was a student and exempt (they were notified at the time but I have no way to prove that now, it was 6 years ago!).

 

Any help would be greatly appreciated :-)

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It is a hard one as it is obviously meant for you and they can persue you for up tp 20 years since the summary judgement was granted.

 

Are you on the electorol roll and pyaing CT in your name at any other address?

 

I would still keep returning the NOTA untl they make contact at your correct address.

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Thanks for taking the time to reply.

 

Yes, I am on the roll of another authority and CT is being paid under my name. Obviously, this name is correct unlike the one held by Aberdeen.

 

The thing is, they haven't got my correct name so even if they do find me surely the demand notice would have to be re-issued to the correct person? They obviously can't find my ex-flatmate either and somebody told me that means if they find me first I'll be liable for the full amount. Is that correct?

 

The other thing is, IIRC the flat lease was granted to my flatmate's parents, I had nothing to do with the lease. I simply paid my rent although I realise this does not exempt me from having to pay CT, I just wonder why they're pursuing me and still think I live with my old flatmate?

 

When they do find me (as they inevitably will) how do I play it then? i.e. the fact that I didn't even live there for two out of the three years they are demanding payment for and also that I was a full-time student in the year that I did?

 

I'm really worried by this, I haven't slept well at all recently. I can't understand how they can get away with issuing a bill to someone whose name they can't get right and who wasn't present at the address for most of the period they claim, then expecting him to pay the whole amount just because they can't find the second party all the while ignoring the fact that I had informed them I was a full-time student (as did my flatmate) during my short stay there.

 

In the meantime, I will continue to have the mail returned to them so long as it's incorrectly addressed. I suppose if they're looking for someone with another name then they'll spend a lot of time going round the houses and find it difficult to get to me?

 

So depressed by it all :-(

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You would need to dispute the CT demand.

 

Whether you do that now or when they do contact you at your correct address is something you woul dneed to decide.

 

Basically you would send them sa SAR to get all teh data they hold on you do you can see exactly what they are charging you for and then you can dipsute what you feel is worng although you would need any evidence to suppot this i.e if you were paying CT at another adress for same periods etc

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Thanks, I really appreciate your help.

 

I'm definitely not going to contact them before they find me. That would simply legitimise their case in my vew. I have no intention of answering to a name that isn't mine.

 

For the three financial years that they claim I am liable for I can easily prove that I was a full-time student in 2004-05. No problem. However, for 2005-06 and 2006-07 my wife (then girlfriend) paid CT in her name at the house we lived in before our present home. Are there any other items of proof I could use (bearing in mind it was some time ago and I don't know what I have left to prove it)? I was on the electoral roll for that address, would that be sufficient (doubt it)? Why can't the burden of proof fall to them to show that I definitely did live there, if they are so sure I did?

 

Also, with regard to the point I made about them charging me for the full amount if they can't locate my flatmate, is that true?

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With regard to your last point, yes they can. You would have been jointly and severally responsible for the debt. This means that if they can only find you they will try to recover all of the debt from you.

 

When you and your former flatmate were students did you apply for an exemption from Council Tax? As a student neither of you would have had a Council Tax liability for the period. That would cover the time between you becoming resident and then leaving. Did you inform the Council when you gave up the flat? If not for the subsequent period it is quite likely that the landlord failed to advise the local authority that you were no longer there. He/she may have either been too lazy to notify the change or might have kept quiet to avoid the Council Tax liability reverting to him/her.

 

If the Council does not have a record of your student status it should be possible for you to obtain one from your former university. The fact that you were on the electoral roll at your girlfriends home will also demonstrate that you were living elsewhere and local authorities do use this information when trying determine liability . The only hiccup might be if she was claiming a single person discount at the time.

 

Armed with this information you should contact the Council directly and point out their error. I know you are reluctant to contact Aberdeen City Council but you also say that you have a tendency to worry about things so I suppose you have to balance one against the other. Given that you can prove your student status and your whereabouts at the time I would expect that the Council would act on the information you provided. Your credibility would be further established if you point out that you contacted them despite the Council getting your name wrong!

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I will take steps to contact them if any more letters relating to this are received by my mum and dad - the latest batch have been returned and I haven't seen them.

 

Before I moved in, my flatmate said he had informed the council of our status as students. Unfortunately, I can't verify that he did. :| The council were not informed of my leaving as my flatmate continued to stay there for two years after I left.

 

I've checked the electoral roll for the house in Dumfries which my girlfriend and I lived in during this period and I am on it for 2006-07. She did not claim a single person discount (we've even still got the demand notice, addressed to her). Would this be enough to cover me for that financial year?

 

I have also found a bunch of old payslips addressed to me at the Dumfries address from October 2005 through to June 2006. Are they worthless for the purposes of helping to prove my whereabouts at this time or could I use them to help my case? I also have some documents from the Jobcentre which relate to this period, confirming payment of Jobseeker's Allowance for a short time when I was out of work. Would they be useful to me? Unfortunately, all utility bills are in her name so I can't use those.

 

Sorry for the barrage of questions!

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Anything that builds up a picture of your residence in Dumfries would help. Your wage slips certainly would as would documents from the Job Centre. Other things they might look for would be bank statements, receipts for any purchases showing your address and details of where you were registered for the doctor and dentist. Try to look out the oldest documents as these will show when you started living in Dumfries

 

It seems that your former flatmate may not have let Aberdeen City council know of your student status. One would normally have to apply for a student exemption and details of your course would have been asked for at the time (unless the University supplied a list of all students to the Council). Your appearance on the electoral roll for 2006/2007 will show that you weren't in Aberdeen and the fact that your girlfriend was not claiming single person discount on the Council Tax account would back up your position.

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So, in the round, it would be fair to say that I'm not in the weakest of positions then?

 

I'll do all I can to find the relevant info, although much of it is long gone given that I did not expect I'd ever need it again. My track record in looking after vital info is not particularly good, I'm embarrassed to admit.

 

Unfortunately, bank details won't wash as I kept my home branch as the nearest bank to where I lived before I moved to Aberdeen as a 17-year old back in 2001, which is still the house my mum and dad own (based in a town within the same local authority as Dumfries). In fact, that is the case with the NHS and my dentist too but as these aren't in Aberdeen, might I be able to use them to strengthen my case? In any event, I do have some significant documents with the Dumfries address on.

 

I spoke to a friend of mine today who lived in Aberdeen at the same time as I did and he had received a demand from them also for dates that he didn't live there. He simply e-mailed them and told them (with no documentary proof, just his word) and they accepted this with no further investigation. As absurd as this sounds, it gives me some encouragement.

 

Thanks again to both Ida and ray_gamba, you've helped me to calm down quite a bit. I've got some hope now. If I need any more advice, I'll come back again, if that's not taking too much of a liberty?

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How did you inform your landlord that you were moving out?

I was in a similar situation in that I moved out of a rented flat but my flatmate stayed on.

I wrote to the letting agency who dealt with the property and asked for a copy of the letter I had sent them, informing them I was moving out and sent this onto Glasgow City Council who amended their records to reflect that I didn't live there when they claimed I did.

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