Council Tax arrears

Today I received a large council tax bill for my rental property, including arrears. It was sent to my home address and not the rental property address. After a lengthy wait I managed to speak to someone at the council who told me that I am liable for this bill as my tenants moved out on 3/10/22. I informed her that this was not correct as we went to the property last week and saw them and they had just paid their next monthly rental. The very grumpy lady then told me that they had been informed that the tenants had left (she said that she was not at liberty to discuss how this information was obtained) and that it was up to me to prove to the council that they were still there or to pay the bill. I asked her what proof would be necessary and she said that they needed a copy of the AST. I told her that this proves nothing (they are now on a rolling contract following initial period) and asked if i could get the tenants to contact the council to confirm that they were still in residency- she said this was not an option. I have spoken to the tenants who say that they are not in council tax arrears and are still at the property and have not told the council otherwise. I jokingly suggested to the lady at the council that I would send them a picture of the family watching TV in the lounge and she told me not to be so ridiculous. Any suggestions?

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Banging your head against a brick wall. council workers are mostly grumpy and not interested in their job I have had dealings with dozens in various areas. I would write to the HEAD of the council and tell them all that has occured The tenants CAN write to the council and say this is incorrect Registered letter type That council worker is the typical idiot who would not know the truth if it stood up in front of her

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Clearly a brainless idiot you spoke to. Ask the tenants to contact council to confirm they still reside there.

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Do not pay the council. They are utterly and inexcusably inept.

Produce a letter stating the actual situation, get your tenants to sign that letter as a witness to its veracity, and send it to the council.

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Cut to the quick

Type a letter stating Date, time, Dear Council idiot, we the undersigned tenants are still residing at XXX

Signed

Take it to the tenant, get them to sign and then email a copy to the jobs worth. Keep the master copy

Also send her an admin charge for wasting your time (admin services), it won’t be paid but you can still be a pain in the A~~~ and keep chasing up the accounts dept.

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The tenants will be able to prove payment, whether direct debit or standing order. Copy of bank statement with non relevant detail blacked out.

Thanks to everyone for much needed advice!!

1 never give council a copy of AST to council, they are just fishing. It proves nothing except give them an address for court action
2 do not hesitate to write in headed “formal complaint”, they dont like that as it takes time. a manager then looks at it and usually writes it off
3 advise you will provide any information in court before a judge but for now they can accept your word or see them in court

I have done the above so many times and they have never followed through.

Bottom line is Landlord has money so threaten the landlord. sad bunch of people really.

They rarely will talk to you on the phone but hide behind snotty e mails

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Please let us know how you get on. I’d be very curious to know who was at fault here.

What’s with this song and dance act?? Tenant simply needs to ring council to advise, the exact same thing they may do when they first move in.

No letters, no time, no BS!

I remember when having an empty property didnt attract tax or rates as it was known. Since the council have been put in control they have “decided” to charge full wack for any property that is empty.
This is money grabbing and is typical of the ivory towered self imposed rulers of our bank accounts

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In such circumstances it might be good idea to speak to local councillor. Unfortunately sometimes you deal with individuals not the council!

Just to say that not all council employees are like this. Like any other organisation councils have cultures; some have a culture of being helpful, others the opposite. Our council is very good when it comes to council tax issues.

So far as the actual problem is concerned the missing piece of the jigsaw is the reason why the council think the tenants left on 3/10/22. There is a possibility that the tenants themselves have told the council this which would, if true, be the first sign that you have a serious problem here. I would definitely ask the tenants to write to the council. Ideally prepare the letter yourself as suggested by Chris 35 and Brian7. Get the tenants to sign it. Also get a copy of their most recent bill for utilities as further evidence of their occupation. Take a photo of their letter and the bill (you will have to print the bill if it’s electronic), then put the evidence in an envelope with a letter from you to the council saying you repudiate the claim for council tax because the property is occupied by someone other than yourself. Post the letter signed-for delivery (or send by courier) and keep the sender’s receipt safe.

If the council prosecutes you will have a very strong defence.

A lot of time and trouble, but it’s just a cost of doing business as a landlord.

Or tenant just calls them to advise? At least an attempt to first, then the long winded version if no success.

I would advise you to use Contractual Periodic Tenancy agreements in future, such as the Openrent or NRLA templates. In this case the tenant remains liable for the Council Tax until the tenancy ends even if they move out.

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On a periodic tenancy, how could you prove
that it hasn’t been ended to council?

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Mark10 - your suggestion that the tenants should call the council is sort of OK but only if it works.

If it doesn’t work, either because the tenant says they have done it but is lying, or because the council ignore the call, the landlord will be subject to the first stages of debt collection action. In my career I have always found it better to take fast positive action to forestall anything which might snowball from a little problem to a big one.

The other reason I think your solution is only “sort of” OK is that if I were the landlord in this case I would have at the back of my mind that something has caused this problem. I would not rest until I was sure the cause of the problem is not the tenants themselves. Getting them to sign a letter and provide evidence that they are in occupation would go a long way towards easing my mind that they haven’t attempted to evade council tax by telling the council they have moved out.

Your question about proving that a periodic tenancy has not ended can be answered in the same way as I suggested - by getting a copy of a utility bill in the tenant’s name and proof that it has been paid. My standard tenancy agreement entitles me to demand a copy of utility bills (and TV licence etc.) and this is lawful. Of course a really bad tenant will also cancel the utilities even though they are still in occupation but this actually makes the action I suggested even more relevant - if the tenant has done that I really want to know ASAP so I can start eviction proceedings. The sort of tenant who does that is the sort I need to evict as quickly as possible.

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Like I said, try it first. Council cockups are the norm. Then go formal. Sometimes a simple call is all it takes.

A signed letter does not confirm they never did it to begin with.

Mark10 - OK, if this happens to you, do it your way. If it happens to me I’ll do it my way.
The OP has a choice and will do what they think best.
It would be good to be told the outcome.

I have to say that I agree with @perrygrovefarm. I’d be instantly suspicious that the tenants haven’t done this to avoid paying Council Tax. They have told you that they are up to date, but clearly the Council doesn’t think they are. Much as my experience tells me that some Councils have better systems than others for managing Council Tax, the only time I’ve ever experienced an issue is when there has been a change of tenant. My first port of call would be to ask the tenants to show they have been making payments. My second query would be why you are only getting a bill with arrears now - is the first bill you’ve received from the Council as this doesn’t seem right either?

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