Government watchdog criticises Sutton Council for bailiff blunder

Stressed: Ms Hudak was hit with massive charges by debt collectors

Stressed: Ms Hudak was hit with massive charges by debt collectors

First published in News
Last updated
This Is Local London: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

Bungling council officers have been criticised by a Government watchdog for sending bailiffs to a woman’s house because they had failed to update her direct debit details.

Laura Hudak, 43, was accused of dodging council tax, when her payment was missed in August last year.

The money was not transferred because Sutton Council had not updated her bank details, despite Ms Hudak making them aware of the change in July 2013.

Following an investigation by the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO), the council has been criticised for not informing her bailiffs were coming round.

When a bailiff visited her property in The Broadway in Cheam they applied excessive fees not applicable to her case, racking up hundreds of pounds in bills.

This Is Local London:

Council response: Ms Hudak with the reply to her complaint

Ms Hudak, a self-employed antique dealer, said: "The whole situation was upsetting and distressing.

"The council’s behaviour is disgusting, and the bailiff’s conduct was really out of order.

"If they have done this to me, they could be doing it to loads of other people as well."

Ms Hudak has a track record for failing to pay council tax, which has seen her account go into arrears.

Ms Hudak, 43, complained to the LGO in February, and the investigator provided their provisional view on May 15.

The ombudsman’s report has been sent to Ms Hudak and the council to consider, and the body’s final decision is expected on June 30.

In the investigation they conclude the council failed to update Ms Hudak’s direct debit details, and are still responsible for the bailiff’s actions despite referring the role to debt collectors.

The council has also been criticised for failing to notify Ms Hudak she would be visited by bailiffs and letting her know direct debit details she had provided were incorrect.

A Sutton Council spokesperson said: "The council has apologised to Ms Hudak that it failed to set up a new direct debit when advised of her change of bank account.

"However, she was already in significant arrears at the time the direct debit was received.

“The council does not allow bailiffs to charge excessive fees and when this matter was brought to its attention, we immediately contacted the bailiffs and requested the case be returned.

"This was an isolated incident that was corrected at the earliest opportunity."

The LGO has recommended Sutton Council pay £150 compensation, and check all complaints about bailiff fees made in the last 12 months.

The investigator indicated the injustice has been part-remedied by the council removing the bailiff charges.

 

 

 

Comments (6)

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8:58pm Tue 20 May 14

Huge Jars says...

This is typical of the situation of many councils ! Sutton council should give Laura a large amount of money for the problems and stress they have caused her!!!
This is typical of the situation of many councils ! Sutton council should give Laura a large amount of money for the problems and stress they have caused her!!! Huge Jars
  • Score: 1

9:06pm Tue 20 May 14

Huge Jars says...

This woman deserves compensation considering for the stress she's has been through caused by Sutton councils incompetence ! Many people don't know their legal rights and the bailiffs could have entered her property and wrongly taken her items which would have been a nightmare to get back if this was not resolved sooner! Most people would have been intimidated with the arrival of bailiffs but Ms Laura Hudak is obviously a tough cookie and held her ground. Don't ever let bailiffs in without the police present as they cannot force an entry!!
This woman deserves compensation considering for the stress she's has been through caused by Sutton councils incompetence ! Many people don't know their legal rights and the bailiffs could have entered her property and wrongly taken her items which would have been a nightmare to get back if this was not resolved sooner! Most people would have been intimidated with the arrival of bailiffs but Ms Laura Hudak is obviously a tough cookie and held her ground. Don't ever let bailiffs in without the police present as they cannot force an entry!! Huge Jars
  • Score: 3

9:56pm Tue 20 May 14

shazatlins says...

Totally Sutton councils fault, the stress she must have gone through and they offer her £150, disgraceful. It seems that Sutton council and their bailiffs are a law upon them selves. Shame on you Sutton council.
Totally Sutton councils fault, the stress she must have gone through and they offer her £150, disgraceful. It seems that Sutton council and their bailiffs are a law upon them selves. Shame on you Sutton council. shazatlins
  • Score: 1

12:41am Wed 21 May 14

Sushi12 says...

Councils up and down the country are short of cash. Hence the eye- watering car parking costs and fines. The desperation seems to have spread to council tax collection with a collect at all costs attitude. The use of bailiffs in this case with no notice or justification is reprehensible. The council should get its house in order and set up measures to prevent this happening again!
Councils up and down the country are short of cash. Hence the eye- watering car parking costs and fines. The desperation seems to have spread to council tax collection with a collect at all costs attitude. The use of bailiffs in this case with no notice or justification is reprehensible. The council should get its house in order and set up measures to prevent this happening again! Sushi12
  • Score: 0

9:08am Wed 21 May 14

ringjim says...

Sutton Council does not allow there bailiffs to charge excessive fees! But if they do the council will request the case be returned. Mmmm. that just about says it all.. Shame.
Sutton Council does not allow there bailiffs to charge excessive fees! But if they do the council will request the case be returned. Mmmm. that just about says it all.. Shame. ringjim
  • Score: 0

9:45am Fri 23 May 14

Johnsmith101 says...

It is a pity the council is not better oganised
It is a pity the council is not better oganised Johnsmith101
  • Score: 0

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