Thursday, 6 January 2011

Rossendale bailiffs caught operating underhand tactics

A constituent who found himself on hard times and defaulted on his Council Tax for the first time became the victim of Council incompetence and underhand practices by bailiffs.

A missed payment of £100 became a default notice of some £1100 after unregistered visits to his property where levied on his account.

After 18 months campaigning with Rossendale Citizens Advice, help from his MP, The Local Government Ombudsman found in favour. Bailiffs were found guilty of malpractice by; failing to provide an inventory list after levying a charge, levying that charge against a motor vehicle outside that was not the victims - one just picked at random even after the victim the bailiffs it was not his car but someone else's; failing to record information (such as time and details) about the visits to the victims property to seek asset recovery.

Rossendale Council were identified by the LGO as failing to administer bailiffs correctly and they were advised by the LGO to under take a review of the way they deal with people.

Quite simply Rossendale Council have neglected a duty of care and have allowed bailiffs under their authority to engage in sharp practices. How more victims are there out there who have been neglected and dare I say, had money fraudulently added to their costs.

Citizens Advice Rossendale have informed me that this practice is more common that this one of case. That it is a scam to just to turn up and pick a car, any car, and levy a charge on it. They are concerned about the numbers of people who haven't had the strength of mind to find this injustice and despite having fallen on hard times, had to find hundreds of pounds to pay off bogus charges.

Having worked with the victim on this case I find it absolutely shocking that bailiffs can turn up and use underhand and devious means to escalate a debt form a hundred pounds to thousands of pounds.

The victim has highlighted the the language used. That people may be being misled in to thinking the Council's debts has been sold on to the bailiffs or another company. Kester Dean of Citizens Advice Rossendale has stated this practice is illegal. That Council Tax debt is always the Council's debt and bailiffs are always just agents of the Council.

The disappointing aspect of all this despite the LGO finding against Rossendale Council and the bailiffs concerned is that lack of any compensation for the harassment and time spent by the victim correcting this injustice. It is almost a cost free risk to bailiffs to Council's to pursue debts aggressively and in a fraudulent way.

Local Government Ombudsman Complaint Reference '09 003 990/JEM'
Contact information;  To order reports not on the website call: 020 7217 4683