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Council tax arrears


si1965
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I have had a claim from my Council for unpaid Council Tax for the years 2000/1 and 2001/2.

Why have they waited so long to inform me of these arrears?

Is there a time limit on how far they can go back?

I spoke to someone at the Council and explained the difficulty I would have obtaining payment information from so long ago and asked them to send more details (such as a monthly breakdown of missed payments) but received nothing from them except a court summons.

I wrote to the Council reiterating my concerns, explaining that during that period I was having financial problems and made a number of payments - direct to the Council, in cash at the Council offices and some through the bailiff. As a consequence, without more detail from them (the Council) it was almost impossible for me to determine what payments I had not made and those that I had.

Again I have received no reply from the Council but have received a letter from baliffs stating that they will enforce the claim by seizing goods if necessary.

I have been paying via direct debit for the past 3 years so have been a 'good' customer but am unsure what to do.

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have they issued a liabilty order?!?

 

A local authority must instigate an application for a liability order within 6 years of the debt becoming due.

 

it's a pretty complicated area of law which wasn't reall sorted out until a very recent case of Regentford v Thanet District Council (2004) which held that that the limitation period for the issue of proceedings for a liability order runs from the date that a demand for payment is first served on the council taxpayer.

 

also it should be noted that the local authority should serve a demand notice on a liable person "on or as soon as practicable after the day the billing authority first sets the the amount of council tax for the relevant year"

 

so to answer your question, it is possible that the 2000/2001 arrears will not be payable but the 2001/2002 arrears would be.

 

you should CERTAINLY complain to the Local Government Ombudsman as this delay is pretty poor!

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Yes the court date has passed and they are seeking payment.

Thanks for the advice - I will make a complaint as I cannot see how I can gain proof of all the payments I made 5 years ago.

I am in the process of remortgaging so will have the funds to meet the demand but, if I am still querying the validity (or accuracy) of the Council's records should I: 1. pay all that they say I owe; 2. Pay only part (a token gesture or what I consider I do owe?); or 3. Withold payment until the Council provide more details/proof of non-payment?

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You could send the council a SAR, use the template for bank charges but change the list of charges to payment history/statements for the years in question. http://www.consumeractiongroup.co.uk/forum/bank-templates-library/516-1-data-protection-act.html

 

If you can afford to pay it off now it will save you the hassle of dealing with a bailiff. But if you then discover they have made a mistake you'll have to go about getting your money back. If you end up with a bailiff chasing it but you manage to ignore them and keep them out of your home for long enough, your account will be passed back to the council, at which point the bailiff's fees no longer have to be paid. By this time you should hopefully have the information requested and know where you stand. It's up to you.

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