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Hello

 

I have received an email from Bristow and Sutor that looks like spam but it caught my attention purely because it is addressed to myself and my ex. After looking up the company online I am certain it will be due to council tax arrears from 2012.

 

At the time we we’re living together, sharing with another couple. We called the local council, we wrote to the council and I even sent a bankers draft in the post with a letter explaining that we would like to start payments etc and we received an acknowledgement. But after months of trying to pay we got nowhere, even the landlord tried to help and wrote to them until the point we were moving out and we eventually gave up.

 

I haven't spoke to our flat mates since as we never got on anyway, we moved to a new place before we later broke up in 2015. She now lives at the other end of the country and we are not on speaking to terms. She was never good financially so I doubt I would get much joy from contacting her myself.

 

I'm very concerned by all this as I have always paid my way and never been any negative debt and after reading things online about Bristow and Sutor. All of this has occurred as a direct result of the local council's error and I have never had any communication from them whilst we were at the address or since.

 

Where do I go from here? I really don't want to deal with Bristow and Sutor paying their fees and dealing with them. I don't see how that will help me.

 

Do I contact the council? Explain and Pay them what I owe directly?

 

At the moment I've not received any post, just an email

 

Any help or knowledge would be hugely appreciated Thanks!

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An email might signify that they don't have a postal address for you and are hoping for contact to be made. The council will have a liability order, probably both in your name and your ex. They are not worried who pays.

 

If you wanted to, you could phone the council concerned ( but withold your number) and ask them for details of any liability order. E.g when it was obtained, dates of council tax liability and how much. Don't provide any of your current contact details as they will be given to B&S.

 

The council won't let you pay direct to them and will tell you to contact B&S. They won't allow you to pay your portion of the tax and remove your liability.

 

So you are really stuck in dealing with this, if you only wanted to pay your portion excluding any fees to B&S.

 

You could send an email complaint to the council concerned about the issues you had at the time and ask them to look into it. Advise that you will seek to involve the Local Government Ombudsman, given the administration problems that they caused and led to the liability order situation which could have been avoided. The council might be forced to take the debt back from B&S and you can then try to deal with it.


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The LGO cannot force the council to take the case back from an enforcement agent, their decisions are not binding on a local authority (although the local authority will generally follow their recommendation).

 

One thing to look at is what was the tenancy originally - was it a joint tenancy with the other couple in respect of the whole property ?

 

Craig

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Never said LGO could force council to take it back. I said involve the LGO if necessary and if there were issues then this may force the council to take it back to deal with. I tend to think of the likely practical position, where if the LGO sees administrative problems that might have partly caused the liability order, that they are very likely to tell the council that they should seek an amicable solution to this and cancel the liability order. With no liability order, there is then no enforcement actions.


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Thanks for your replies

 

So if I were to find out exactly how much is owed to the council, could I then pay them directly and in full?

 

I just don't want thing hanging around my neck - I would like to have an ombudsman involved to review the case and settle it as I don't trust the council but I fear that once I make myself known to them its just going to lead to me being hassled by the bailiff company

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One thing to look at is what was the tenancy originally - was it a joint tenancy with the other couple in respect of the whole property ?

 

Craig

 

Three of us were on the tenancy, me, my ex and a flatmate.

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Thanks for your replies

 

So if I were to find out exactly how much is owed to the council, could I then pay them directly and in full?

 

I just don't want thing hanging around my neck - I would like to have an ombudsman involved to review the case and settle it as I don't trust the council but I fear that once I make myself known to them its just going to lead to me being hassled by the bailiff company

 

It was a joint liability between those noted, not a split amount. Once an enforcement company are involved, the council probably won't touch it. Even if they accepted payment, they are required to hand it over to B&S, who will take part of it towards their fees. You will then continue to be chased until tne liability order and fees had been paid.

 

If you have a genuine complaint and wish to start dealing with it, then starting an official complaint with the council is best way forward. If you email them first, then see how they respond. That way, you have not given your postal address.


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Well if busted and stupid have not sent you a notice of enforcement then....


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Go ring the council and check they have a liability order


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Hello

 

Do I contact the council? Explain and Pay them what I owe directly?

 

At the moment I've not received any post, just an email

 

Any help or knowledge would be hugely appreciated Thanks!

 

Yes, you must contact the council before you do anything else.

 

When speaking with them, its important that you ask them what they have been doing since 2012 to recover this debt? This is because, there has been a very recent Local Government Ombudsman's decision regarding length of time taken before seeking recovery.

 

Please post back once you have spoken with the council.

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Will do Thanks

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The Ombudsman is the best way forward especially in cases of administrative errors.

 

I am in agreement for the time being your current address is unknown to both the council and B&S and that is the way you should keep it, you are under no obligation to divulge your address to make a complaint to the council.

 

Simply email your complaint to them and request any response is sent back to you by return email address.

 

Normally the complaints process with a council is a 2 tier complaints process,

first you complain they respond, and if you don't agree you request them to look at the complaint again,

 

if the 2nd response is unfavourable then you take your complaint to the LGO,

 

some councils do require a 3rd line of complaint which is usually sent to the Chief Executive,

Sandwell Council adopt this approach as I've been there and done it with them

and ended up going to the LGO to get a favourable result.

 

And remember you are under no obligation to disclose your address, communication can be done strictly via email.

 

If they want an excuse just tell them you are of no fixed abode and are sofa surfing between friends, that way they have to communicate via email.

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