This decision from the Local Government Ombudsman concerns the important subject of Vulnerability and Mental Health. The decisions confirms one again that if a person considers that he or she is  vulnerable, they should provide evidence in support.

A short analysis of the decision is below. The full decision can be viewed on the Local Government Ombudsman’s  website here.

The Complaint

Mr X complains that the Council had unreasonably taken Council tax enforcement action against him despite his vulnerability.

The Background

Mr X had council tax arrears from 2013/14 and 2014/15. He did not make any arrangements to pay and in November 2014, told the council that he was a vulnerable person. The council put his recovery action on hold for one month to allow him time to provide evidence. He did not provide evidence of his vulnerability and the Council sent his account to enforcement agents (bailiffs) for collection.

Mr X complained that bailiffs should not be used as he is a vulnerable person.

The enforcement agents wrote to Mr X in November 2014 asking for medical evidence of his vulnerability signed by his GP or a medical professional. No evidence was forthcoming. It was almost a year later (in September 2015) that Mr X sent the Council a copy of a letter from his local mental health team inviting him to an appointment as evidence of his vulnerable status.

In October the enforcement agents wrote to Mr X detailing the amounts he had to pay to clear his council tax arrears.

Mr X provided the council tax department with a copy of a letter that he had sent on 25th January 2016 to the Housing Officer about his mental health. The Council told the enforcement agents who arranged for its Welfare Team to deal with him as they are experienced in dealing with vulnerable people.

The enforcement agents returned Mr X’s accounts to the Council as they could not contact him.

The Council contacted Mr X numerous times about the arrears on this council tax accounts.

The Local Government Ombudsman’s decision

A liability order is an order confirming the person must pay the council tax and costs. Further costs are incurred when magistrates grant a liability order. If someone does not pay the council tax, and the costs, the Council can ask enforcement agents to collect the debt. Enforcement agents charge fees which must also be paid.

Although Mr X says he is a vulnerable person, he did not provide evidence of this to the Council until January 2016. Without evidence to support Mr X’s contention that enforcement agents should not be used, there is no evidence of fault in the Council’s decision to utilise them.

Final Decision

There is no evidence the Council has been unreasonable in its decision to take enforcement action against Mr X for council tax arrears.

Commentary from Bailiff Advice

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