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South London woman forced to pay neighbour’s bills for 3 YEARS due to council blunder

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A woman ended up paying her neighbour’s bills after a South London council housed her in a block of flats with only one water and electricity metre. The unnamed woman, known as Mrs X, spent over three years paying the man’s bills and council tax due to the blunder.

The local government regulator has now ordered Lambeth Council to hand the woman £600 for the trouble the problem had caused her. It also told the council to pay Mrs X 30 per cent of her utility bills and council tax from when she moved into the property in December 2018.

An ombudsman report on the blunder explained: “We found the council at fault for placing Mrs X in the accommodation without ensuring it was properly set up for individual billing, and its failure to resolve the matters when she brought it to its and its agent’s attention. The council agreed to apologise and make payment to Mrs X. It also agreed for it, or its agent, to take responsibility for her utility and council tax costs until the individual billing issues are resolved.”

READ MORE: London council apologises after failing to help man who couldn’t reach bath in own home

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Lambeth placed Mrs X in the flat in a neighbouring borough because she was in danger of becoming homeless. The flat was managed by an agent. The contract Mrs X signed said she was responsible for paying the bills and council tax for her flat only.

In the autumn of 2019 she received a letter from the local council demanding council tax for the whole building. A few months later she realised the property only had one electricity metre, meaning she was paying for her neighbour’s bills.

Mrs X came to an agreement with the other man who lived in the building to split the electricity payments. But she was still paying his share of council tax and water. She asked a solicitor to solve the problem with the property’s agent but nothing changed.

Mrs X then complained to her landlord – the council – about the issue. Lambeth arranged for the agent to pay her £990 to cover the water and council tax money. But it denied it was at fault. The ombudsman report said: “In its final response the council agreed Mrs X should only pay her fair share of the costs, but it did not uphold her complaint. It said it was the landlord and its agent’s responsibility to set up the separate utilities and council tax for the flats. If this was not possible it could transfer Mrs X to another temporary accommodation.”

A spokesperson for Lambeth Council said: “The council has fully accepted the LGO’s [Local Government Ombudsman] ruling in this case and we will, of course, carry out the actions set out by the ombudsman to remedy the injustice experienced by Mrs X.

“We have apologised to Mrs X, and agreed to pay her £300 to acknowledge the distress she experienced as a result of our service, and of our agent’s failure to resolve her utility and council tax billing issues when she raised them. In addition, we have agreed to pay a sum to acknowledge the time and trouble she had to bring the matter to the attention of the council, our agents and the ombudsman – and to make a contribution to her utility bills and council tax from the date she moved into the accommodation until one month after this decision.

“We will also remind our staff that the council remains responsible for the actions taken on our behalf by our housing and temporary accommodation agent. Lambeth will remind our agent to ensure it only places individuals in temporary accommodations which have been set up to facilitate individual billing of utilities and council tax, unless in circumstances where such charges are included in the rent.”

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https://www.mylondon.news/news/south-london-news/south-london-woman-forced-pay-23726139