Council tax bill sent for home sold 13 years ago

Wigan Town Hall
Wigan Town Hall

A WIGAN landlord was issued with a court summons for failure to pay council tax on a property he sold 13 years ago.

Town hall bosses have now apologised for the oversight and a time-wasting date in court in the new year has been narrowly avoided.

Pensioner Jim Ingram received several letters informing him he would face court action for failure to pay rates at the property on Ince Hall Avenue, Ince.

Although the property landlord does own houses on the street, he was shocked to receive the documents for that particular house, having sold it back in 2002.

He told the Wigan Evening Post he informed the town hall of the mistake on several occasions but received no response and was preparing for his day in court. And he added: “This has been a waste of my time and caused a lot of stress.

“I knew I had sold it, I was ready to bring it up in court.

“Their apology now doesn’t mean anything to me.”

A council spokesman said an apology had been offered “as a gesture of goodwill” but suggested Mr Ingram must share some of the blame for the mix-up.

A statement said: “The council has no record of being informed by Mr Ingram that as the landlord and owner he had sold the property in 2002.

“As the property was rented it is standard practice to revert liability to the landlord when a tenant vacates, unless the new tenant’s details are immediately available.

“This is due to its being imperative for the council to collect council tax in order to fund the delivery of front line services.

“Had Mr Ingram informed us in 2002 that he had sold the property and also who the new owners were, the council would have updated the account with the correct new liability details.

“The account has now been updated with the correct details and previous recovery action against Mr Ingram removed.

“We are always keen to improve our service and customer feedback is very valuable in helping us do this.

“As a gesture of goodwill a letter of apology has been sent to Mr Ingram detailing the actions taken by us to amend our records.”

But Mr Ingram responded: “The sale was done by the book. Why should I be doing their job for them?

“The apology has only come about because I kicked up a fuss.”

The 72-year-old has been involved in a long-running dispute with the town hall about whether Ince Hall Avenue is an unadopted road or not – and therefore who has the responsibility to maintain it – and more recently about plans to build a children’s soft-play centre across the road despite concerns about access to the site.

WHILE it never came to tougher tactics before the confusion over Mr Ingram’s property was resolved, Wigan Council bailiffs have been called upon 40,000 times to knock on doors throughout the borough to collect £6m in unpaid council tax, figures revealed recently.

According to a town hall report on collection rates, the huge sums have been prised away from non-payers since 2013.

Council bosses said enforcement agencies are used only in situations where residents have “not engaged” with officers to re-arrange missed payments and is highly regulated.

The report also reveals that more than 70,000 court summonses were issued for non-payment of council tax during the same period, April 2013 to October 2015.

A recent report, showed the council had consistently hit its 95 per cent target for council tax and business rates collection in recent years.