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GDPR and Council Tax

Crafty990

War Hero
Hi everyone, I am after some advice with regards to Council Tax liability and GDPR data sharing within a Borough council. I am wondering if anyone has had a similar issue?
I evicted a tenant from my sole rental property after court proceedings in July 2018. Refurbished and re-let in October. I was awaiting a council tax bill for the unoccupied period and when one didn't arrive the matter went off my radar.
Fast forward to two weeks ago and a letter arrives from a collection agency demanding the deficit + court costs + agent's fees taking it to more than double the original amount. This was the first correspondence I had received with regards to the debt. It turns out the Borough Council had been sending letters to my previous address which I moved out from nearly 3 years ago. Since moving I have been corresponding with the council on numerous other issues regarding the rental property including Environmental Health, Housing Benefit Direct Payments and even household waste collection. All in writing to my new address. I am also on the electoral register at my new address.
The council are now saying that because I didn't update my address with the council tax department in particular, I am liable for all costs. They state that because of GDPR, they cannot share data across multiple systems and departments within the same organisation.
My argument is that, although I admit the matter slipped my mind, it was reasonable to assume that because I had updated my address with other departments, all being related to the rental of this property, and because I was on the electoral register at my new address, I could assume that there was no need to update with every single department within the council. I Had a smashing conversation with a council employee who's argument was "that's just the way it works" when I questioned the inadequacy of having to update personal details with every department. I was winging it a bit when I said that data could quite happily be shared within the same organisation without breaching DP or GDPR and I have subsequently found no evidence to the contrary. I also cannot find any section of GDPR that states you cannot share data within one organisation. I believe the Council systems are at fault for not updating my details across the board.
Has anyone had any similar experience or are there any GDPR gurus out there that can say one way or the other?
 
Your case has clearly been to court and you have been adjudicated against. I have some advice for you:

1. Pay the council tax owed immediately to show willingness.

2. It is up to you to change your address on moving. There are services that will do this for you to all departments like local council tax etc. I think Royal Mail do it. There is little/no transfer of information within most councils outside of fraud prevention, so you cannot rely on it happening if you don’t do it. This means you are liable.

3. All is not lost. Speak with council tax again and calmly explain the situation (make a written blurb beforehand so that you get everything straight). Then apologise because this is on you. Make an offer to them, for example all the council tax due plus court costs but not any agent fees as they aren’t collecting.

4. If no joy you have the option to contact the court where judgement was made and ask to make a solemn declaration that you didn’t receive their correspondence and were perfectly willing and able to pay tax due. State you have already paid the council tax and ask that the judgement be set aside. Explain clearly that you changed address with the council but not the tax department. Sorry sorry etc.

5. You may end up paying the full amount but at least you won’t have a judgement against your name.
 

Crafty990

War Hero
Your case has clearly been to court and you have been adjudicated against. I have some advice for you:

1. Pay the council tax owed immediately to show willingness.

2. It is up to you to change your address on moving. There are services that will do this for you to all departments like local council tax etc. I think Royal Mail do it. There is little/no transfer of information within most councils outside of fraud prevention, so you cannot rely on it happening if you don’t do it. This means you are liable.

3. All is not lost. Speak with council tax again and calmly explain the situation (make a written blurb beforehand so that you get everything straight). Then apologise because this is on you. Make an offer to them, for example all the council tax due plus court costs but not any agent fees as they aren’t collecting.

4. If no joy you have the option to contact the court where judgement was made and ask to make a solemn declaration that you didn’t receive their correspondence and were perfectly willing and able to pay tax due. State you have already paid the council tax and ask that the judgement be set aside. Explain clearly that you changed address with the council but not the tax department. Sorry sorry etc.

5. You may end up paying the full amount but at least you won’t have a judgement against your name.

Where will I have been adjudicated against, is it in the County Court? I'm having trouble finding out who to actually speak to and who makes judgements on Council Tax and I'd rather not phone back to "Brian" in the tax department.
 
It will likely have been done in the magistrates’ court local to the council buildings where the tax people ‘work’. Search for the court contact details online and speak to general enquiries; you will probably be speaking to a court receptionist, so ask to be put through to someone who can help you contest a council tax judgement. They are sceptical people (understandably) but genuinely want to see a just outcome for people and understand that shit happens. Again, have a clear and simple script.

Good luck.
 

Wordsmith

LE
Book Reviewer
Info from the horse's mount.

Guide to Data Protection

You say:
They state that because of GDPR, they cannot share data across multiple systems and departments within the same organisation.

I would check the above reference. To the best of my knowledge, you can share personally identifiable information (PII) across departments providing there is a business justification for doing it, the data shared is the minimum necessary for the business purpose and that appropriate access controls are in place.

Wordsmith
 
I suspect the council can in law share a change of address internally but that they place the onus of changes on the payer to avoid being liable for errors. No doubt your council will have weasily-worded small print somewhere to that effect.

I think your best bet, given that you have a collection agency on your heels, is to minimise how much money this will cost and ensure that your record is untainted. Also, to change your address details in future! Most councils have an online facility to do it and it only takes a moment or a phone call.
 

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