Several students at the University of York have received “irritating” council demands for council tax, including court summons and multiple phone calls.
The tax is used to cover the services that the council provides to residents, such as rubbish collection, emergency service and local transport. Full-time students are exempt from paying council tax providing their course requires them to attend university 24 weeks a year.
Jack Elliot, a second-year Music Technology student explained how despite submitting his council tax exemption form in June, he received multiple letters threatening to fine him over one thousand pounds.
Elliot explained that the letters seemed automated, as the household was also receiving letters to previous tenants asking for council tax money.
He said: “If one person had taken a minute to check if we had requested exemption, they would not have sent us the fines and it would have saved so much paper. I have enough on my plate without threats from the council too.”
Dean Bennell, a second-year English student experienced a similar situation after filling out both an online and paper form.
Bennell received several final warning letters and threats of fines, despite a phone call from the council reassuring them that they had nothing to worry about.
However, Bennell’s household received a court summons which was not retracted until they phoned the council to inform them that they would attend their court date wielding their exemption certificates.
Bennell stated that he “wasted hours filling out forms, making phone calls and having to go to the University to get exemption certificates.” The constant threat of debt collectors culminated in him being told he was being taken to court. Once the issue was resolved, the council did not offer an apology or compensation but told Bennell it was a system error.
Stephanie Michael, an Economics student, also received court threats and told Nouse that while “the situation was successfully resolved in the end, it was still irritating that [she and her housemates] were wrongly summoned to court in the first place, given [they] had taken care to ensure that our exemption certificates were sent off together and met the deadline”.
Jemima Busby, Welfare and Community Officer, said: “I have experienced this problem myself. It can be very worrying for students who have not lived in the private rented sector before. I would encourage students to give feedback on the process to the council if they come across these issues. The Student Support Hub can also advise students on housing related issues such as council tax. I would encourage students to get in touch with them if they have any housing concerns.”
City of York Council did not respond when contacted for a statement.