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London Borough of Brent (21 018 983)

Category : Benefits and tax > Council tax

Decision : Upheld

Decision date : 27 Apr 2022

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate this council tax complaint from a landlord because the Council has provided a fair remedy.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I refer to as Mr X, complains the Council tried to force him to pay council tax he was not liable for. The Council has awarded compensation of £150 which Mr X says is not enough.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. The Ombudsman investigates complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’, which we call ‘fault’. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint, which we call ‘injustice’. We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We do not start an investigation if the Council has already provided a fair response. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6))

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered information provided by Mr X and the Council. This includes the complaint correspondence. I considered our Assessment Code and guidance on remedies. I also considered comments Mr X made in reply to a draft of this decision.

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My assessment

  1. Mr X is a landlord. The Council made him liable for the council tax on an empty property from August to September 2020.
  2. In November 2020 Mr X provided evidence to show the previous tenants were liable for the council tax until a new tenant moved in. The Council did not process this email or change the liability back to the former tenant.
  3. In October 2021 the Council served a summons for the outstanding council tax. Mr X contacted the Council and repeated he had provided evidence that the former tenants were liable.
  4. The Council then processed the information Mr X had provided in November. It ended Mr X’s liability and cancelled the summons and costs. In response to his complaint the Council apologised and said it had failed to respond to the information he had provided which was sufficient to amend the liability in November. It also apologised for a delay in responding to his complaint. In March 2022 the Council awarded £150 compensation for the delay in amending the account and for the stress and inconvenience. The Council said it would review how it communicates with people to avoid the problem being repeated.
  5. I will not start an investigation because the Council has provided a fair response. It has explained what went wrong, apologised, cancelled the summons and costs, and awarded £150. It will also review its procedures. This is a fair and proportionate response. I appreciate Mr X says the award is not enough but he has not suffered a financial loss, the case did not go to court and the amount is in line with our guidance for compensation.
  6. In response to a draft of this decision Mr X said he had not received the £150. The Council processed the payment on 14 March 2022 and wrote to Mr X to explain how he can collect the payment from the post office. The Council says Mr X has not collected the payment. The Council will contact Mr X to make sure he received the letter with the instructions about collecting the payment.

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Final decision

  1. We will not investigate this complaint because the Council has provided a fair response.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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