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Council Tax bill £8850 - Long long fight - I'm loosing, please HELP!!!

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Hi,

 

Over the last few months I have been fighting a loosing battle with Bristol City Council about the Liability for Council Tax for my house in Bristol.

 

 

Here's our story.

 

In the years leading up to 2001, my Mum had suffered several periods of illness and was left unable to work and continue to pay her mortgage! She sold her house and combining what was left over, she bought an ex council house for £36,000 in early 2001.

 

The house was in a barely liveable state of repair, far from what could be called warm, safe and secure. After a few years of hard work, what we thought could be rectified with some DIY, soon became a larger list of work than we ever expected, or could afford.

 

Mum, being unable to work, and in receipt of Invalidity Benefit, couldn't afford to get the work done on her own. I was unable to help a great deal as I was working as a bar manager and living above my pub in an old store room converted to a bedroom.

 

Mum tried to get a loan to get work done but was turned down due to her circumstances and income, so on the 12/07/2004 she signed the ownership of the house over to me and I used my new asset to get a small equity loan against the house to pay for the huge list of work that needed to be done.

 

Mum continued to live at the house and I carried on living at the Pub where I worked, paying off the new loan. Over the next few years I had new double glazing, kitchen, bathroom, central heating installed, as well as dropping by to do much of the carpentry, decorating and finishing work myself.

 

Toward the end of 2004 the company I was working for became insolvent and there was all sorts of bother with the MD's and the High Courts in London. I continued to work at the bar for the company it was leased from and was paid cash on a weekly basis! In 2005 my new bosses also went bust, closed the bar and I was booted out unceremoniously. So I went back to live "at Mum's" for Christmas. Although I owned the house according to the Land Registry, we still considered it to be her house and not mine.

 

 

From the day Mum bought the house she always paid her Council Tax. She received a discount for single occupancy and because she was on Invalidity Benefit.

 

In Early 2006 I moved to Devon. Over the next five years I lived in Woolacombe and Braunton, and travelled abroad living the Surfer/Barman/Carpenter lifestyle. I would head home for birthdays, Christmas and weekends here and there.

 

 

In 2009 Mums health worsened and she registered as disabled. She began to live on just the ground floor of the 3-bed semi and could no longer manage the stairs.

 

 

In 2010, after a 9 month trip to the USA I had damaged my knee and was unable to walk, or even work, and I decided to move back into “Mums” and we be a right pair of cripples together! I set up a room upstairs in the house and registered with the local GP and started claiming Employment & Support Allowance. Soon after, I had surgery on my knee and was laid up at Mums recovering and keeping her company.

 

 

I didn't think I needed to notify the council that I was staying because in 2009 Mum had several letters from the council wanting to “assess her situation” regarding her single person discount for Council Tax and her benefits. A “very nice gentleman” or probably better to call him a Local Taxation Officer from the Council came to visit Mum and had a good look around the house, including a look in every room and in the bathroom? His conclusion was she lived in the house on her own and that everything was above board regarding our situation and that the Council Tax was being paid correctly. She asked him if it was “OK for me to come and stay from time to time”, and he said it was fine for me to visit, as most parents have their children visit from time to time!

 

 

After being at Mums for a few months I decided on a trip to Morocco where I stayed for two months. When I got back I applied for a job working for a “Shopfitting and Joinery” company, where I would be working away and doing nights refitting banks. I worked 12 days on and 2 off. The two days I would usually spend surfing or visiting Mum.

 

 

During this whole time Mum continued to pay Council Tax in one way or another, be-it through benefits or from her own pocket. She never missed a payment and there was never an issue.

 

 

During the summer of 2011 Mums health worsened and the house and the garden started top become too much for her to manage. She had a number of accidents and I grew increasingly more worried for her as the months passed. In August 2011 we decided that I should move in full time, and we start looking for a bungalow for her to live in nearby. I was unemployed and carpentry work was getting harder to find.

 

 

I, in my wisdom, registered on the electoral register and let the council know I was living there and would have to start paying Council Tax. Mum was sent a letter shortly after asking to clarify the situation as to who owned the house and what my situation was etc. I, rather naively, telephoned the Council, thinking they where only trying to help me out, and pretty much did exactly what they wanted? The person I talked to said I should write in a letter telling them all about how I owned the house, that I had owned the house since 2004 and that I have used it as my correspondence address etc for that time. I also explained the itinerant nature of my work as a carpenter and that I have some possessions stored there and that my Mum lived there full time and paid the Council Tax!

 

 

They pretty much helped me to hang myself! The letter I sent was on 19/09/11.

 

 

A few weeks later (typically on a last post on a Friday, leaving you to stew for the weekend) the first of many letters arrived on the doormat.

 

 

 

 

29/9/2011 - The first letter was to Mum, outlining the “Basic principles are that residence implies a degree of permanence”

 

 

 

 

Dear Ms ****

 

 

I write in reference to your letter dated 19/11/2011

 

 

For council tax payers such as yourself the City Council has to establish your sole or main residence. The basic principles are that residence implies a degree of permanence. Conversely temporary residence does not make a person resident at another property”

 

 

The factors that would indicate a persons usual abode are such as:

 

  • residence of a spouse, partner or dependants.
  • Legal interest in the properties in question.
  • Storage of possessions.
  • Where registered with a doctor, dentist etc, electoral roll registration.
  • Intention to return

 

 

In addition case law has specifically shown that time spent at a property is not of paramount importance and that the residence elsewhere due to the needs of the employment does not necessarily detract from the usual abode

 

 

From the information you have provided it would appear that the above address is your sole or main residence. I regret that unless you are able to provide an address where you are registered for council tax purposes, your mothers entitlement to single occupancy will cease.

 

 

I hope that this information clarifies the matter.

 

 

Yours

Local Taxation Officer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This letter was addressed to Mum but obviously directed at me?

 

 

It reads as if any parent who has a grown adult son or daughter (dependant), who may inherit the house one day (legal interest), who stores possessions (like every person has a box of stuff in their parents loft) and is registered with a local doctor or dentist (which I had only done recently)

 

 

We thought it looks like every parent who has a kid at Uni or away travelling should be asking them to pay council tax? We where left a bit confused.

 

 

Shortly after I received a full 2012-2013 council tax bill for the house and so, being a good citizen, I started paying.

 

 

 

 

27/10/2011 – The second letter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Mr ********

 

 

Please see the enclosed letter , which I regret you may not have received. It was due to a clerical error, addressed to your mother.

 

 

I apologise for any confusion this may have caused.

 

 

Yours

Local Taxation Officer

 

 

(Copy of above was attached)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I telephoned them to ask what it was about, and to express my views that this was Mums house and that she had always paid Council Tax for the house. And that I lived elsewhere and that my landlords had always paid the Council Tax and that I was never registered etc. etc....

 

 

I was told that Mum should not have been entitled to “Single Occupants” benefit and that I would “in the worst case, have to pay back the discount for the past eight years”

 

 

19/01/2012 - The third letter was to Mum and in the form of a “Benefit Decision Notice”

 

 

As a statement style printout, it stated that from 05 Apr 2004 to 11 Jul 2004 “you are no longer entitled to benefit”. The total applicable amount was £79.35.

 

 

Brilliant we thought as I opened my mail.

 

 

19/01/2012 – My Council Tax Bill for 2004 to 2012.

 

 

I was sat holding a bill for £8648.....

 

 

I was being asked to pay full band-B Council Tax for eight years, with a first instalment of the full amount. If I did not pay then I would face court action.

 

 

I fired off a few calls to the council office and was told I would have to provide evidence that I was living elsewhere and that I should do this as quickly as possible to avoid court action.

 

 

I pointed out that the council tax had been paid for all those years by my Mum. They said she had “single occupants discount” and that it wasn't valid?

 

 

They also pointed out that the bulk of the bills where paid for with a “council tax rebate” for her disability or incapacity benefit.

 

 

This meant nothing to them and I would have to settle the full bill or provide evidence of my residence elsewhere?

 

 

So I went about trying to and then providing evidence!

 

 

During the period of evidence collecting, I had been in contact by telephone with the Council asking their advice etc.

 

 

15/03/2012 - I received this letter:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Mr *******

 

 

Further to our recent telephone call to this office, may I refer you to the letter dated 19/9/2011 (copy enclosed) confirming that you own ******** and consider it your home and that your post is sent there and your possessions remain there. I also enclose two replies dated 29/9/2011 and 21/12/2011 stating that for Council Tax purposes ********* is considered your sole and main RESIDENCE!

 

 

I note you purchased it on 12/7/2004 and if you wish to dispute it was your main home from this date you will need to provide evidence that your home was elsewhere from this date, This could be a copy of a tenancy agreement and work contracts stating you had to work elsewhere as part of your contract of employment. Your case will then be reviewed.

 

 

If you where also a full time student for any period from 12/7/2004 you will need to confirm your student number, course dates, and evidence of where you where living.

I trust the above clarifies the situation.

 

 

Yours

Local Taxation Officer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was having difficulty getting evidence anyway, but this just hammered home that my evidence wasn't going to be enough.

 

 

Below is a breakdown of where I was and what evidence I managed to obtain!

 

 

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

 

 

Well in 2004 to 2005 I lived in the staff quarters if you call it that above the pub I worked at. The management went into administration and was taken over by the lease-owners who also in 2005 went bankrupt and liquidated. Obtaining any paperwork or even the slightest evidence from them was impossible. “Vodka Bar Management” my initial employers where jailed for £2.5million in a loans con? I don't know where to start there? I tried and tried to find someone who might hold their records. I was paid cash and lived in house. The company that took over, the “Laurel Pub Company” simply told me over the phone “they couldn't help me, and that any records where either lost or where still with the solicitors regarding the VBM affair”

 

 

Ok, well that is a nigh on impossibility to get hold of? No evidence, just a written explanation!

 

 

2005-2007 I rented a room with a friends brother at a house in Devon. That shouldn't be hard should it? Well no, he still blames me for the breakup of his relationship with his fiancée and that “hell would freeze over sooner than he do me a favour” especially now he's living in Australia!

 

 

I now up a creek and searching for a paddle! No proof, again just a written explanation, and an email from my friend about his brother!

 

Summer 2007 I was travelling Europe in a converted BT lorry, working as a barman and carpenter here and there. I have no payslips or any paperwork for this time sadly. I can get a letter from the girl I was travelling with. She now lives in Valbonne on the French Riviera and refurbishes expensive yachts. I'm told that her evidence isn't worth the paper its written on.

 

 

2007-2009 I lived in Woolacombe renting a room on a fortnightly basis whilst working as a Foreman in Appledore. I managed to get a letter from my landlord and my employer to that effect.

 

 

Mid 2009-2010 I was travelling for 9 months in the USA, Canada and Central America. My passport can prove this and my possession’s where with me, and my tools stored at my friends joinery workshop. I have a letter from him to prove this.

 

 

Winter 2010 I stayed stayed with Mum for a few months while I had surgery, recovered and looked for work. During this time I claimed Jobseekers Allowance or ESA. I'm not 100%? According to the man who visited from the council, this was ok as far as we knew?

 

 

Spring 2011 I went to Morocco for 2 months and can only provide bank statements and my own testimony to this effect.

 

 

Apr 2011 I started working for a shopfitting firm and lived in Hotels or B&B's. I have receipts for this time and provided them as evidence. I could get a letter from my employers but I'd rather not as I left them on bad terms. I was working 80hr weeks and nights and they basically burned me out and then dumped me!

 

 

July – Oct 2011 was spent living in a van again in Europe and at a friends house in Yorkshire. Again I have only scrappy evidence in the form of bank statements etc.

 

 

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

 

 

 

 

On April 4th I receive a summons for the sum of £7532.63. and to attend the Magistrates on the 23rd April 2012.

 

 

I have very little evidence by then. I was still waiting for a letter from my landlord from Woolacombe and I was still waiting for letters from two employers. I decide after several days deliberation, that the council has done nothing but trip me up at every opportunity, I would stand my ground and let a Magistrate decide, and put what little evidence I had collected to Council and the Magistrate.

 

 

So! I get all the evidence together, put my best suit on, be as smart as I can and go to court.

 

 

I show up and there's a huddle of Council employees waiting. “Theres no Magsitrate available today” “please sit with one of our advisers and so we can review your case” I'm told???

 

 

I sit and explain my case, show them my evidence (which the guy isn't slightly interested) and he decides I can have another 30days to get more evidence and that I should contact him regularly till then.

 

 

The piece of paper he gives me is as follows:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Council Tax/Business Rate Liability Council Logo

Order Hearing

 

 

 

 

Name: *********

Account no: *******

Date: 23/4/12

 

 

An officer of Bristol City Council has seen you today at Bristol Magistrates Court with regard to a summons issued for a non payment of council tax or business rates.

 

 

You have been referred to the Customer Services Department at Phoenix Court for the following reason:

 

 

 

  • You need to make an arrangement to pay
  • You need to talk to a Benefits Officer
  • Other reason (specify) #

 

 

(in barely legible handwriting)

Hold for 30 days. Contact 9757016 to pursue #### provide evidence

 

 

The officer has confirmed that you do not need to appear before a Magistrate today.

Signed S.Davies

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over the following days I call to talk to Mr Davies the Local Taxation Officer. He's never available and I talk to string of different people having to explain my case at length every time.

 

 

24/04/2012 - I get a letter confirming the conversation with Mr Davies at the Magistrates Court.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Mr ******

 

 

Council Tax/Business Rate

 

 

In the matter between Bristol City Council and Mr *********

 

 

I write further to our conversation on Monday 23/4/12 at Bristol Magistrates Court. I have put your account on hold for 30 days in order that you can supply the evidence of your residence to Mr Tutty. I note that you have previously been sent letters detailing what you should send. Please send as much as you can. Given that there is going to be an amount outstanding I would also suggest that you should make some payments to reduce the balance as soon as possible.

 

 

Thank you in anticipation of your cooperation.

 

 

Yours

Mr Steve Davies

brctsgd

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I finally get all the evidence I can scrape together, I take it down to the Phoenix Court Customer Services offices and they aren't open. So I put it in the letterbox, with “by hand” and “Local Taxation officer” etc. written on the outside.

 

 

I don't hear anything from Mr Davies or the Council for several days.

 

 

I telephone them and am told that they have a four week backlog and should wait to hear their decision in due course.

 

 

11/06/2012 – Council Tax Appeal to Billing Authority

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Mr *******

 

 

Council Tax Appeal to Billing Authority

 

 

You will note that a discount that had been awarded, on the grounds of sole occupation, has now been cancelled and my records have been amended on the basis that two or more persons have been in occupation at ******* (address spelt incorrectly) 12 since July 2004.

 

 

If you wish to appeal against this decision, please complete this form and retur it to Local Taxation Division, P.O Box 968, Bristol, BS99 1ZG.

Name:

Address:

Property Address to which the appeal relates: ********

 

 

The grounds on which you can appeal are listed below. The council has two months to make a decision. If you disagree with the councils decision, or if the council as not acted within the two months, you can appeal to:

 

 

Valuation Tribunal Service

Second Floor

Black Lion House

45 Whitechapel Road

London E1 1DU

 

 

Tel – Email – Etc

 

 

Please note that although the Tribunal Office is based in London, appeals are normally held within the Bristol area.

 

 

Please indicate the grounds for your appeal below.

 

 

I am appealing on the grounds that (please tick)

 

  1. The council has refused to accept that the property should be exempt
  2. I should have not been made a liable person for the Council Tax
  3. I should have been allowed a discount on my bill.
  4. I have been refused a reduction for disability

 

 

Please note that an appeal against a completion notice or the imposition of a penalty should be made directly to the Valuation Tribunal Service

 

 

Please give brief details of the reasons for your appeal:

 

 

Signed: Date:

 

 

 

 

Shortly after receiving this letter I telephoned the Council offices and was told my case was being looked at, and a decision was being made upon the evidence that I had provided. SO I waited to send the appeal back!

 

 

I waited another week and called them again. This time I was told that they had received nothing in the the way of evidence and did I get a receipt when I handed the evidence in. I obviously didn't as postboxes don't have handy little men attached with receipt books! I absolutely loose my rag with the person on the phone and hang up......

 

 

20/06/2012 – Council Tax Bill

 

 

 

 

Your standard Council Tax Bill:

 

 

The Bill is for £8767.68

7532.63 is subject to court proceedings.

 

 

It offers me the option of paying instalments on 01-Aug-2012 = 1 x £205.05

 

 

And 5 other instalments due on 01-Sept-2012 to 01-Jan-2012 = 5 x £206.00

 

 

£103.00 of court costs had been added to the bill

 

 

 

 

 

 

Up until this bill I had been paying my Council Tax as normal, this bill now had included the balance of the bill prior amount.

 

 

A week later I severely broke my arm and was in hospital for surgery over several days. For the following weeks I am doped up the eyeballs on Tramadol and Codeine painkillers and am not even allowed to use a car or able to get up off the sofa.

 

 

In my drug induced wisdom I decide to start claiming Council Tax Benefit, Employment & Support Allowance and go off sick and hide under a duvet!

 

 

 

 

03/09/2012 – Council Tax Bill

 

 

 

 

 

 

Again your standard Council Tax Bill:

 

 

The Bill is for 2011 – 2012 = £1219

 

 

It tells me to pay £205 together with the instalment due this moth. These two amounts add up to £411.05

 

 

If I have not paid the full amount within seven days I will then have to pay £1235.05 and which is not already subject to court proceedings.

 

 

 

 

At this point I am so confused as to where I am and what I owe. I called the council again and was told that my case was still being looked at an to just pay the bill. I told them I was on benefits and wasn't working and didn't have the money. They basically told me that there wasn't anything I could do to avoid further court action.

 

 

I didn't know I had even had any court action to date?

 

 

24/09/2012- Summons for non payment of council tax.

 

 

 

 

Court date is 22nd Oct 2012

 

 

The Summons is for:

 

 

The bill dates are:

2011-2012 = £1219.06

2012-2013 = £15.99

 

 

Bristol City Coucil costs = £100

Court Costs = £3.00

 

 

Total = £1338.05

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I had notified the Council I had moved back into the house permanently in August 2011, I felt this was closer to the amount I was expecting to actually have to pay, although the dates where a little off. I decided to again contact my council about the bill and spoke to very nice young lady called Karen. I recorded the time and dates etc.

 

 

I told her that I had supplied all my evidence, it was lost and then found and that in actual fact the dates on this bill where closer to what I was willing to “accept” was my liability, and that I would be happy to accept this amount and pay it off. However, I was currentlyoff sick from work and waiting for further surgery, I was unable to pay the full amount and that would they accept a repayment schedule, increasing when I returned to work again. She told me that the evidence I provided had been looked at and that this was the liability that they where prepared to accept I was liable for. I said “would this stop any court action going ahead” and she said “yes”. I asked her specifically, “if I accept this as my complete and total liability and to pay this off in due and reasonable time, would this be the end of the matter” and she said ”yes”.

 

 

We agreed a repayment schedule and a review date for an initial payment of £20 a month and to then increase to £50 a month when I returned to work. She accepted this and told me to wait for a confirmation letter in the post detailing the repayments and direct debt mandate, and that I should make a fist payment using the council online system to get started. I was happy with this and finally thought I had made them see the light!!!

 

 

 

 

Boy was I wrong!!!!!!!!!!

 

 

 

 

06/10/2012 – Arrangement to pay letter.

 

 

 

 

Dear Mr ******

 

 

Arrangement to pay.

 

 

Further to your recent enquiry I regret that, whilst any payment you are able to make we will acept, your offer is insufficient to avoid continuation of recovery proceedings.

 

 

Yours sincerely

 

 

Mr Harris

Local Taxation Officer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I decided to not call the council. So far they had nothing but told me lies or inaccuracies, and that I had been completely let down by the civil servants that I thought I could trust!

 

 

I made an appointment to see a debt advisor at my local CAB. I showed up and they hadn't and that I would have to book another appointment!

 

 

 

 

13/11/2012 – Notice of Intended Bailiff Action

 

 

 

 

This notice is for: *********

 

 

Outstanding Balance - £7512.62

 

 

Dear Mr *****

 

 

On Monday 23rd April 2012 the Justices at Bristol Magistrates Court made a Liability Order against you in respect of unpaid Council Tax.

The current outstanding balance, including costs, in respect of this Liability Order is £7512.63

 

 

IF YOU ARE UNABLE TO MAKE IMMEDIATE PAYMENT YOU MUST, WITHIN 14 DAYS OF RECEIPT OF THIS LETTER , PROVIDE THE PERSONAL FINANCIAL INFORMATION REQUESTED OVERLEAF!

 

 

FAILURE TO SUPPLY THIS INFORMATION OR SUPPLYING FALSE INFORMATIONMAY RESULT IN FINES ON SUMMARY CONVICTIONOF UP TO £500 AND £100 RESPECTIVELY.

 

 

If after 14 days from the date of this letter, you have failed to take action, the Council will refer this matter to its BAILIFFS which will result in additional costs to yourself in accordance with the enclosed schedule.

 

 

If you wish to discuss these arrears with a member of my staff, you should telephone the number at the top of this letter or otherwise write to the Local Taxation Office at the address above.

 

 

Yours sincerely

Revenue and benefits manager.

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the same day I also receive this letter

 

 

13/11/2012 – Notice of Intended Bailiff Action

 

 

This notice is for: *********

 

 

Outstanding Balance - £1338.05

 

 

Dear Mr *****

 

 

On Monday 22nd October 2012 the Justices at Bristol Magistrates Court made a Liability Order against you in respect of unpaid Council Tax.

The current outstanding balance, including costs, in respect of this Liability Order is £1338.05

 

 

IF YOU ARE UNABLE TO MAKE IMMEDIATE PAYMENT YOU MUST, WITHIN 14 DAYS OF RECEIPT OF THIS LETTER , PROVIDE THE PERSONAL FINANCIAL INFORMATION REQUESTED OVERLEAF!

 

 

FAILURE TO SUPPLY THIS INFORMATION OR SUPPLYING FALSE INFORMATIONMAY RESULT IN FINES ON SUMMARY CONVICTIONOF UP TO £500 AND £100 RESPECTIVELY.

 

 

If after 14 days from the date of this letter, you have failed to take action, the Council will refer this matter to its BAILIFFS which will result in additional costs to yourself in accordance with the enclosed schedule.

 

 

If you wish to discuss these arrears with a member of my staff, you should telephone the number at the top of this letter or otherwise write to the Local Taxation Office at the address above.

 

 

Yours sincerely

Revenue and benefits manager.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now....I didn't go before a magistrate on 23rd April 2012. I wasn't given the opportunity to do so by Council staff.

 

 

So how can a liability order have been made against me? There where no magistrates there that day according Mr Steve Davies and Mr Tutty?

 

 

The second demand is for a hearing at Magistrates Court that I was told by Local Taxation officer “Karen” would not go ahead and that I was going to pay off in instalments? Only to be told in a blunt letter from a Mr Harris that “insufficient”....

 

 

I don't feel at any point I have been allowed the truth.... I wanted to stand before a Magistrate and put my evidence across and have a sensible person decide, and not a Local Taxation (insert expletive) ….

 

 

I am still struggling daily with my broken elbow. I am waiting for surgery still and am still off of work and on ESA Benefit. I have no savings, I have lots of bills, and I don't have a clue where to go from here.

 

 

Thank you so much if you have read this far. I am so so desperate for some advice or direction. I am lost and in trouble, please help...

 

 

Thanks. Simon and Mum.


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