First of all Mr Mustard is going to say something nice about Barnet Council, he realises he doesn't so it very often but he is all relaxed and happy, just back from 10 days in Sri Lanka being a guest at a wedding and seeing some of the sights. Also, haggling with Tuk Tuk drivers over a £2.50 fare when they were tyring to fleece him for £5 which looks very small beer when compared to a Newlyn bailiff acting on behalf of Harrow Council. This story simply would not happen in Barnet as Mr Mustard has good contacts with two of the in-house parking managers (he cuts out the middleman NSL as they don't really get him) and they would have realised that what had been done was wrong and sorted it out following amicable discussions.
Sadly we are dealing with Harrow Council who are a different kettle of (rotten) fish altogether.
Now you are going to have to concentrate here as I give you the time line. All names are fictional.
1 November 11 - John Johns buys a car, a small people carrier which is perfect for use as a mini-cab. He slightly naughtily registers the car at his work address, Maestro Minicabs.
5 March 12 - He sells the car to Harold Smith who registers the car to his home.
18 March 12 - Harrow's cctv spots the car, at 2am, on a double yellow in a service road in front of shops. The driver has been to a late night shop.
28 March 12 - The vehicle record has not yet been changed at the DVLA and a postal PCN is sent to John Johns.
7 June 12 - The car is sold to John Smith (Harold & John are related but live at different addresses) who registers the car to his home.
31 July 12 - Fred Brown's Car Hire Ltd is incorporated. It trades from the same shop unit as Maestro minicabs and there is also a beauty business in the same unit.
10 September 12 - Fred Brown's Car Hire Ltd buy the car for £2,900 in cash and rent it out straight away to a taxi driver.
19 July 13 - Fred Brown's Car Hire Ltd rent the car to Alan Alans for a year.
6 January 14 - The bailiff finds the car near to Maestro Minicabs (not surprising as Alan Alans gets his fares from there) and clamps it and doesn't believe there has been a genuine sale when there have been three. This is because a friend of Fred Brown's who is helping them is called John and the bailiff thinks this is John Johns when it is actually John Roberts.
So starts a long round of complaining to the council, Harrow councillors and a local MP, Matthew Offord, none of whom seem to be at all interested. Rather than spend money on legal fees Mr Mustard thought the Local Government Ombudsman would see how wrong the seizure was, but he was wrong. Legal action will have to be next.
There are some interesting aspects to this case.
Harrow Council told the Ombudsman that the law is that they can only ask DVLA once for keeper's details. The LGO accepted this. In Mr Mustard's view that is bunkum. He will catch them in future months doing just that on another case, for sure.
There was no action by Harrow Council after issuing the Charge Certificate in June 12 until the Order for Recovery in August 13. As John Johns was no longer working for Maestro Minicabs, and as they destroy driver's records 6 months after they leave, it is unsurprising that John Johns did not respond to any PCN paperwork. The undue delay of more than 6 months at any stage in the processing of a PCN is, per London Councils, reason to cancel the PCN and would almost certainly have lead to a cancellation at PATAS if the case could have got there.
The Ombudsman refused sight of the Charge Certificate and Order for Recovery to Fred Brown's Car Hire Ltd on the grounds of data protection, as they do not know John Johns. So their car can be taken without sight of any document about the relevant PCN and they have no rights of appeal. A right Catch 22 that one.
The DVLA supplied all the ownership dates. They show that the PCN was issued to the wrong keeper, it should have been to Harold Smith. The LGO, the bailiff and Harrow Council are not concerned by this.
In all this time the vehicle has not been sold by the bailiff which indicates a certain nervousness on their part. They are right. There is going to be one hell of a claim against them.
Why was the car taken in the first place when it was clearly tools of the trade?
The vehicle has now been in storage for over 200 days.
The bailiff has provided the following figures for the debt at 1 August 12; best take a deep breath here and sit down.
|150 days storage||7,200.00|
which is a storage rate of £48 a day (it must be at Heathrow Airport in the short term car park?) Why have only 150 days been charged for when the car has been in storage for over 200? Doesn't that 2p really hurt!
But, if Fred Brown's want to make payment to take the vehicle (note that the bailiff isn't planning to return it even though it won't be in a drivable state; it will be filthy, it will have flat tyres and the battery will be as flat as a pancake despite the bailiff's duty to take care of seized goods) then they can pay a mere £1,980 as follows:
|150 days storage||1,016.98|
So why is the bailiff offering a discount of 75% and doesn't that evidence the excessive nature of bailiff's fees?
The main reason, in Mr Mustard's opinion is that they know they are in the soup and they hope to negotiate their way out of it.
Imagine a bill for £8,335 for a vehicle which cost £2,900, what sort of idiot would pay that?
Even £1,980 is ridiculous as the vehicle has depreciated in the "care" of the bailiff. They will be lucky to get £500 for it at auction without a log book or keys so returning the car if they can get more for it that way from the owner than at auction makes for more profit for the bailiff.
Mr Mustard thinks that they are going to find themselves in front of a County Court judge explaining why they took a car away from a company that didn't even exist when the PCN was issued and who aren't liable for the PCN which is in any event in the wrong name. Mr Mustard is looking forward to the hearing when he will sit in the back row, smiling to himself, saying nothing, quietly taking notes and watching the bailiff sweat.
This story isn't over yet.