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Ash
Ash, Solicitor
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 10915
Experience:  Solicitor with 5+ years experience
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in May 2012 my income was pension credits and working tax credits.

Customer Question

in May 2012 my income was pension credits and working tax credits. in May I informed the local council Housing and Council Tax Benefits office that my circumstances were about to change and I would receive the Sate Pension and Working Tax Credits. I was told that I would be informed of any changes to my claims.

In September 2013 the council sent me a bill for £5,000 over payment, a bill for ongoing Council Tax. I asked how this could have happened the Council said I had not informed them of the changes.

Six weeks later, they admit I had informed them though they would not wipe out the debt. I made a formal complaint and within two hours they agreed it was their mistake, removed the debt, told me that I would have to make a contribution to my rent but would not have to pay Council Tax - and would I remover the complaint. They also promised to send a letter covering what we had spoken about.

About two weeks later no letter, but a further Council Tax bill. I telephoned and said I was mistaken.

For nearly 18 months I believed that the money I was being pad was correct and made several financial commitments. Now my position is that I am on the verge of bankruptcy, will soon not be in a position to pay several bills. The problem was caused by the incompetence of the council and I am left in substantial debt. Is there any possibility that the council should pay compensation?
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Ash replied 3 years ago.

Alex Watts :

Hello my name is Alex and I will help you with this. Please note that I am a working Solicitor and may be on and offline as I have to attend Court and meet with clients, even at weekends. As such you may not get an instant response when you reply as this is not an ‘on demand’ live service, but rest assured I will be giving your question my immediate attention upon return.

Alex Watts :

How much are they say is owing in total? Have you appealed any of the benefit overpayment decisions please?

JACUSTOMER-tvllstyw- :

They have agreed that the over payment was their error and that they had broken the law. They also informed me that I was entitled to some Housing benefit and would receive full council tax benefit.

Alex Watts :

Yes. If you are entitled to full HB won't the Council Tax bills be wiped off?

JACUSTOMER-tvllstyw- :

This week I received a Council Tax bill minus a small deduction for benefit not the 100% they informed me. I did make a complaint but withdrew the complaint when they reversed their original decision. The real problem is that I believed the for 18 months that the money I receive as Pension and Working Tax Credits was mine and made financial commitments I now cannot meet. As the council lied to me when the error was discovers and have continued to mislead or lie could I claim compensation for the difficult the council has placed me?

Alex Watts :

You have received a letter from the Council saying you are entitled to full benefit?

JACUSTOMER-tvllstyw- :

No. Though they promised to do so they have not. Verbally they have informed me that I am entitled to a portion of Housing benefit and 100% council tax benefit. This week the have again change their story and now say I am not entitled to full council tax benefit.

Alex Watts :

Then you need to get that decision in writing and APPEAL that.

Alex Watts :

You have a limited time to appeal a decision but the correct thing to do is follow that process and appeal.

Alex Watts :

The matter will then go before an independent Tribunal who will decide whether you are entitled to benefit or not and if there hasbeen an overpayment whether or not it is an official error.

Alex Watts :

If it is an official error then you will not have to pay it back.

Alex Watts :

But the Tribunal may find you are entitled to 100% benefit and then the Council Tax bills would be cancelled out.

Alex Watts :

But if you believe your cirucmstances have not changed then you do not need to pay the Council Tax bills.

Alex Watts :

If you appeal and lose, then you would obviously have to backpay those Council Tax bills.

Alex Watts :

Can I clarify anything for you about this today please?

JACUSTOMER-tvllstyw- :

The argument is not that the council decision is wrong, I believe they are now correct. The original error was the councils 18 months ago and over the past 18 months I have believed the my income and benefits were correct. I have made financial commitments that I can no longer meet. If the Council had carried out the right procedures 18 months ago I would not be in the financial difficulty I am now. My question is that should I expect compensation for the problem they have caused.

Alex Watts :

How much are you looking for?

JACUSTOMER-tvllstyw- :

Several million would be nice but I am not that daft. I am in debt to about £3,000 that I was paying until all this happened and now I will not be in a position to pay. I should imagine that I will be made bankrupt as it is either the Council tax or bills. I would accept i years Council tax, that is less then the £3,000

Alex Watts :

I do not think you would get several million. However I do think you would get around £500.

Alex Watts :

But the process you need to follow is that you need to write (not email or call) and make a formal complaint to the Chief Executive of the Council. The complaint will be investigated by someone in that department.

Alex Watts :

If when they reply you are not happy then you can complaint to a body called the Local Government Ombudsman. They are nothing to do with the Council and will review your complaint. They will either uphold your complaint or dismiss it. They also have the power to recommend the Council compensate you. Their website is at www.lgo.org.uk but they would expect you to complain to the Council first.

Alex Watts :

Can I clarify anything about this for you today please?

JACUSTOMER-tvllstyw- :

I did make a complaint and withdrew it because I was informed that I would have to make a contribution to the rent but would receive 100% council tax. What really annoys me is the lies and failing to put their reposes in writing.

Alex Watts :

This is why you need to make a formal complaint now in writing and then if not successful complain to the Ombudsman.

JACUSTOMER-tvllstyw- :

That was the route I was heading - looks like I will have to begin again

Alex Watts :

I am sorry to say yes.

Alex Watts :

If this answers your question, please take a moment before you leave and rate my service, which I hope has been excellent, it only takes a second and is an important part of the process. Otherwise if you need more information or help then please click reply. Alex

JACUSTOMER-tvllstyw- :

Thank you

Alex Watts :

If I could invite you to rate my service before you leave today, hopefully it has been excellent. If you do need more help or information please click reply. Thanks – Alex.

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