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  • Advice needed – joint liability on debt (council tax related)
  • Premier Icon jerrys
    Free Member

    Looking for advice/way ahead.

    My daughter is a student. Last year she did a foundation year and was in student halls. This year she is in the first year of her proper course and is renting a student house with 5 other students. She moved in on 1st July (so she could work as a waitress to earn some money to help support herself throughout the year). One other member of the household is also in his first year, having just completed a foundation year, the other four students are in their second years.

    Out of the blue, my daughter and the other first year student have been given a bill for council tax for the property, to cover the period from 1st July up to the start of term. Bristol council are saying that the foundation course and the degree course are two separate courses and that therefore she (and the other first year student) were not students when they took over the house and that they have to pay approximately £500 in council tax between them. The other students are exempt because they were classed as students during this period being between years of their degrees.

    The other first year student’s first response is claiming that he has no money and can’t pay. The council has said that even if my daughter pays her half (£250), she is still joint liable for the outstanding money – which I think is grossly unfair and how can they practically enforce this?. There is no way that I am going to pay the whole sum but don’t know the best way to proceed. Go around with a baseball bat and make him see sense? If I had a way of contacting his parents I would try and speak to them if my daughter doesn’t get him to see reason.Anybody got any advice?

    I’ll try and get her to speak to the student’s union to see if they can help, but I think she’s a bit distraught at the moment.

    What would STW do?

    Premier Icon chewkw
    Free Member

    The Bristol council jobworth is taking the mickey.

    “Households where everyone’s a full-time student do not have to pay Council Tax.”

    Discounts for full-time students

    Premier Icon irc
    Free Member

    The council may have it wrong.

    This does not include students who are taking an ‘integrated’ FY0 (foundation-year zero) and moving to year 1 of the degree, or students who are transferring between two full-time courses with the summer vacation between. In both these cases, the exemption continues during the summer vacation between the two courses.

    https://www2.uwe.ac.uk/services/Marketing/students/pdf/Fees-and-funding/council-tax-FAQs-students.pdf

    Premier Icon Phil_H
    Full Member

    The student union should have an advisor/advocate who can help.
    But based on the post above the council should be told to **** off.

    I had a similar council tax issue years ago. I was unemployed, 2 flatmates were students and 1 had a job. I applied for CT benefit and after we’d moved out the council came after me for the council tax owed by the others as we were jointly liable.
    I sent afairly blunt letter pointing out that as I was on income support I didn’t have to pay CT and they should go after my former flatmates and I never heard from them again.

    Premier Icon theotherjonv
    Full Member

    just from experience – my wife was in a similar situation where she left her course having signed to a house rental for the year, the remaining students found another housemate but then expected her to pay her share of the rent still, thinking because it was now between 5 i.o 4 they’d all save a bit of cash. Technically as my wife was on the dox she was still liable but was a bit snide given no-one was out of pocket as they would have been if she’d refused to pay leaving the bill across 3.

    Anyway, she refused to pay and had a County Court judgement awarded against her which ***ed up her credit rating for years afterwards

    Whatever the principle – don’t allow it to get to that stage over £250, by all means fight it properly but don’t “There is no way that I am going to pay the whole sum” to the exclusion of all else.

    Premier Icon chewkw
    Free Member

    … by all means fight it properly …

    This ^^^
    Play by the rules and don’t ignore them as the bureaucrats will screw you up. These bureaucrats will screw up other’s life without even a breaking a sweat.
    Keep a record of all communication and whatever evidence you have of your registration as student.

    Premier Icon jerrys
    Free Member

    Thanks for the above advice, especially irc.

    In turns out that my daughter was on a FY0 course however she decided to change courses and move to a different degree – but still needed to pass the foundation year before being accepted on the new course.

    So whether the exemption still applies in this case we aren’t sure. She has fired off the question to the address in the link above. Fingers crossed that it has the right result !

    Premier Icon jerrys
    Free Member

    So……

    update on this. My daughter got an email back from the university stating that changing courses made no difference and as far as they were concerned she has been a student continuously since Sept 2018 and the university were going to raise a new exemption certificate. However, the jobsworth at the council we spoke to said that the university was incorrect but that he didn’t have access to the council information to prove this. He get trying to talk over my wife (who eventually had to tell him to just shut up and listen – not that it made any difference.

    When my daughter had rung the council earlier (with the bit about the positive email from the Uni) and explained why she thought she didn’t have to pay anything as the evidence would soon be available , the person at the other end had also insisted that she pays up immediately or the debt collectors would be round, but that she would be paid back if it turned out that she shouldn’t have had to pay. Considering that she only got the letter a week ago stating that she owed them money (probably erroneously) it seems rather heavy handed.

    Premier Icon poolman
    Free Member

    Make sure you get evidence as I had a tenant once who did not get the relevant certicate exempting him from ct. I am the landlord, the council sent me a bill about 5 years later, for a whole years ct.

    I managed to contact the past tenant via social media, he got the certicate from uni, showed the council, all solved.

    Council are not really bothered who pays, just that someone does. Funnily enough, if i phone the council now and check the tenant has paid up, they tell me they cannot discuss the issue due to data protection.

    Premier Icon Phil_H
    Full Member

    If I was sure that I didn’t owe anything I wouldn’t be giving them anything as once they accepted this it would take ages to get the money back.
    Make all communication in writing stating your daughter has been a student continuously since Sept 18, backed up with evidence from the university.
    I’d only pay up if ordered to by the court which reading the above seems unlikely.

    Premier Icon mattyfez
    Free Member

    Debt collectors don’t turn up in person unless there is a CCj/liability order in place, which requires a court hearing to grant.

    They’ll just be letters, and if a liability order is granted it’ll be bailiffs, not debt collectors.

    So you’d have chance to argue the case if the council wants to go down the court route, and more than likely win.

    It seems you’ve reached deadlock trying to talk to the council, so I’d be tempted to call them once more stating your case and then call thier bluff by inviting them to go down the CCJ /liability order road.

    Premier Icon chewkw
    Free Member

    … it seems rather heavy handed.

    Actually that is a really nasty council to threaten someone who will provide the evidence soon. I mean the evidence will come from the University not some Tom, Dick and Harry.

    The only problem is when the person trigger the debt collection this will impact on her future credit etc as it is on record.

    What you daughter can do now is to inform the University immediately and get the University to issue a letter to explain to the council.

    Premier Icon mattyfez
    Free Member

    The only problem is when the person trigger the debt collection this will impact on her future credit etc as it is on record.

    No it won’t.
    There would have to be a court hearing and losing the case resulting in a CCJ /liability order for it to affect credit scores.

    Premier Icon jerrys
    Free Member

    To muddy the waters slightly, a few weeks before this my daughter (along with the other student) had received a letter stating they would be taken to court for none payment of council tax. My daughter had had a lot of trouble getting the university on-line system to download her exemption, so when she finally managed to submit it, it was a bit late. The other student just couldn’t be bothered to get his finger out to get his organised, so this went in late also. However, after a flurry of emails and telephone calls a lady at the council said it was all sorted and they did not need to go to court and the matter was closed as the council had the evidence for the exemption. This was not followed up by any letter from the council/court/whoever stating this. As far as we were aware, this was therefore the end of the matter. There was no mention at all that the exemptions submitted were not valid until the beginning of term.

    Fast forward to the latest events with the council claiming that they were not students between the end of last term and the beginning of this one (due to the exemptions incorrectly stating that they were first year students with no mention of the qualifying ‘integrated’ foundation year) and that the original bill was still valid – despite saying earlier that this was not the case. As I said earlier, this was totally out of the blue.

    My wife is going up to Bristol tomorrow to try and talk to someone in the council who is prepared to actually listen,and also citizens advice bureau and hopefully the lady at the uni who sent the email about the updated exemption being produced. Wish her luck !

    Premier Icon mattyfez
    Free Member

    It sound like you’re in the clear to me, it’s just unfortunate that the local council are somehow unable to put 2+2 together, but that’s par for the course with councils.

    If the council try to escalate to county court, presumably someone with some legal nouce at the council will review and squash it, as it sounds like it would just get thrown out of court if it got that far.

    I’m assuming the conversion so far has only been with whoever at the council picked up the phone at the time, some admin waller who’s just tasked with getting the account settled.

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