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HELP - Been taken to court for unpaid council tax and did not know about it!

(9 Posts)
WhoopsieDaisie Mon 03-Oct-11 17:54:53

Got a hand delivered letter from a debt collection agency through the door this afternoon saying that they have been instructed by the council to collect outstanding council tax (from 2010/2011). A Magistrates Liability Order was issued in March. Apparently they can seize our possessions (they made a note of our car number plate on the letter) within 5 days if we do not pay the full amount of £700 and they will not accept instalments.

We have honestly not received any letters at all about this. I can only think this relates from earlier in the year when we received a court summons from the council for council tax because we had missed an instalment. We went straight down there and they said the summons had been issued in error so it would be cancelled. We never heard anything else and kept up the instalments so did not think any more about it until today! I have not kept the letters about it and when I rang the council today, they said they had no record of this on their system. They insist that they have issued numerous letters about it but we have not received them and we receive all other post with no problems.

We do not have £700 and have no one else to ask for it. What can we do, PLEASE!!!!

TeamDamon Mon 03-Oct-11 18:00:58

How do you pay your council tax? Even if we had not kept any of the other information relating to it, we have our bank statements which show the direct debit going out every month so we can prove we have paid on a regular basis, iyswim. And presuming that you have kept the letter they send out annually saying what this year's tax is going to be, can you show that your payments match that?

Even if you don't pay by direct debit, you must have cheque stubs showing that you have paid? - or a receipt from them if you paid in cash?

I am assuming here that this is an error on the council's part but it may require a good trawl through your paperwork and bank statements, etc, to prove it, which is a pain.

ellisbell Mon 03-Oct-11 18:13:43

Find all your records of payment and check all your insurance policies to see if any include legal advice. If not you may be able to find a local lawyer to give you a free half hour or the CAB may offer help. Contact the court on Monday and say that you have received no information about the order and ask how you dispute the Magistrate's liability order. If possible go into the council offices with your proof of payment and try to find out how the bill got to this amount.

scaryteacher Mon 03-Oct-11 18:59:57

There is a procedure that the Council has to follow. You will have been sent reminders and then the summons to the Magistrates court. If the summons wasn't cancelled, then the Council will have obtained a Liability Order against you. Once the LO is obtained, then they can make an arrangement with you, or if that doesn't happen, then they can attach to earnings, benefits or if all else fails, refer the matter to the bailiff.

I find it strange that you have not received anything after the summons at all. The bill is for last financial year, so you will have to either prove you paid by DD, SO or instalments. If you have your 2011/12 bill, then it should show anything outstanding from 2010/11.

If you have moved into the property during 2010/11, then make sure that you are being correctly billed.

You need to contact the CTAX office to explain that you have paid; they will require proof if it doesn't show on the system, and if the error is their end, then they should cancel the bailiff. Did you pay on the correct reference number, and do you have receipts?

WhoopsieDaisie Mon 03-Oct-11 21:29:18

Thanks all. The issue is not with current payments and we knew there was an outstanding balance from last year. We had arranged an instalment plan with them and had continued with the payments up to now. The issue is with the summons that was erroneously issued in February. They said it was an error and were cancelling it but it seems that they did not. I cannot for the life of me understand why we have not received any letters after that from them. I am appealing it and will contact the magistrates court tomorrow to get some more info. We now have 14 days to sort it out. Really did not need this extra stress!

ellisbell Tue 04-Oct-11 09:33:47

if they have agreed an instalment plan with you and you can show that you have been paying those instalments then I suspect it's possible to get the order quashed. You might even be able to claim compensation from them if baliffs seized your property. You need a letter to the council referring to the agreement and the amounts and dates of the instalments you've paid, sent by whatever method now gives you proof of delivery. That 700 pounds will include court fees and you should also dispute the amount now owed. Do take this up with the court, although I've no personal experience I've seen people claim on websites that their staff can be helpful.

Imnotaslimjim Tue 04-Oct-11 09:44:07

If you have proof of payments, you don't have to do anything other than get in touch with the bailiffs and show them. They will then back off. I've been there several times and they're not all bad.

Definitely dispute it though, as Ellis says, part of it will now be court fees (anything up £100) and bailiff fees (prob £20-£30)

If you didn't sign anything, or the paperwork was just pushed through the door, they have no rights into your property anyway as they need a walking possession order, and it sounds like you haven't signed one. You don't have to sign anything, so simply tell they you're not doing

scaryteacher Tue 04-Oct-11 11:04:05

Even if you have an instalment plan, the Liability Order may not be quashed if the debt is still unpaid, otherwise, if the OP decides to not meet the instalments, the whole thing has to go to court again. I used to keep the LO going, and then write off the costs if the instalment plan was adhered to.

Obviously the OP hasn't been keeping to the instalment plan as she missed one, and that would trigger the recovery procedure. She also needs her receipts to show how and where she paid and what ref number was used, so payments can be traced back through the system.

zipzap Thu 06-Oct-11 23:28:17

Might be worth double checking all reference numbers on things...

I got caught once (not quite as far down the line as you but almost) because I'd moved into my flat alone while dp was working overseas. I'd been in correspondence with the council and had sent back the form to them to set up the direct debit and at the same time said that dp had come back and could they add his name to the bill and change the amount appropriately. Didn't think anything further of it.

Got several other bills through that were wrong, rang up and spoke to them about it, they reassured me that there wasn't a problem, it was all set up OK and that sometimes it just took a bit of time for things to work through the system as they get printed in advance etc.

What neither I nor the council contact had spotted was that when I asked them to add dp to the bill, instead of adding him, they closed down the previous account and opened up a new one - which had a new reference number. So they set up the direct debit for the new account but didn't use it to pay off the old one first so there were a couple of months of unpaid council tax on a closed account that were just sitting there.

When I finally spoke to someone again to find out what the hell was going on given that the direct debit was all set up and coming out of my account and they were in charge of the amounts (so it seemed really off that they were taking the wrong payment and about to take me to court for it) we finally realised what had happened. They accepted that they had screwed up as I had sent them in a direct debit form and I was paying, and as I had asked them to amend the details to include dp it had never occurred to me that they would close the account and then reopen another - as far as I was concerned I had done my duty by sending my dd form back in a timely manner and letting them know as soon as dp returned. So luckily it all got sorted and they removed all mention of not paying from credit files and the like as they could see that I hadn't deliberately not paid them IYSWIM.

But it might be worth going through all your documents with a fine toothcomb to see if there is anything like this that is causing problems... good luck, it's horrible isn't it!

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