Council tax hell for Hackney photographer
PUBLISHED: 12:35 08 February 2012
A man the town hall claimed owed more than £2,000 in unpaid council tax, has won a his battle after he was unfairly hounded for what should have been his former landlord’s arrears.
Photographer David O’Shaughnessy endured a nightmare of stress anxiety and sleepless nights as Hackney Council repeatedly threatened him with court action and baliffs for the outstanding 10-year-old debt.
In 2009, five years after he had been a tenant in a now demolished house in Seal Street, Upper Clapton, he received a bill for the unpaid council tax.
He disputed liability, because the law since 1992 requires owners and not tenants to pay council tax on multi-occupation dwellings – but the council continued to demand payment.
A recent Valuation Tribunal upheld his appeal, ruling it was his former landlord and not him who was liable for the arrears.
Mr O’Shaughnessy, who now lives in Furrow Lane, Homerton said “This has caused untold and unnecessary stress to me, my family and friends.”
Backed by Zacchaeus 2000 Trust (Z2K), a specialist debt advice charity, Mr O’Shaughnessy is now making a formal complaint against the council and is calling for an investigation into what he claims is a “fraudulent” rent book used by the council as evidence against him.
Alan Murdie, senior lawyer at Z2K said many questions still need answering: “We cannot explain why Hackney Council was so relentless pursuing Mr O’Shaughnessy, rather than the landlord concerned.
“The council also made serious mistakes with the facts, evidence and the law in Mr O’Shaughnessy’s case.”
Cabinet member for finance Cllr Samantha Lloyd said all council tax cases were dealt with based on the information provided by owners, landlords and tenants and, in most cases, any disputes were resolved quickly.
The council has yet to pay £200 compensation awarded to O’Shaughnessy by the Local Government Ombudsman for mishandling his initial complaint in 2009.