18 June 2020

Camden Council stopped in their tracks

Here is the story of Mr W.

Mr W's adult son is staying with him for a short while and he buys him a modest 14 year old car to use - the son drives to Haverstock Hill one Saturday evening (1 February) and parks perfectly legally without any restriction until 8am on Monday 3 February. Socialising with friends the son decides he should not drive home so leaves the car where it is.

Early on Monday 3 February father& Son go to collect the car. It is gone. They report the theft to the police and are given a crime number. They give the crime number to the insurers.

5 February the police say they will take no further action.

7 February. The car is issued with a PCN and taken to the Camden Council car pound. It must have been the third PCN as the car was in a bay for which payment was required each and every day.

10 February. The insurers agree a car valuation of £1,100
11 February. The insurers pay out less the excess.

11 March. Notification is received (probably by Notice to Owner) of two PCNs. Representations are made and accepted, the PCNs are cancelled.

12 March. Notification is received (probably by Notice to Owner) of a third PCN. Representations are made and accepted, the PCN is subsequently cancelled.

17 March. Notice is received of the cancellation of a PCN.

25 March. Camden Council write to say the car is in the pound and notification is received by Mr W of the cancellation of two PCNs. The letter mentions that evidence of the police report was provided.

11 April. Camden Council write to demand £2,920 being the £80 PCN + £200 for the tow & 66 days overnight storage at £40 a night. The letter said the vehicle would be destroyed if the charges were not paid. As Mr W no longer owned the car, and was not liable for the actions of the thief, he ignored the letter as he had already provided proof of this. By now the insurer had owned the car for 2 months.

24 May, Camden Council wrote again. Here is the body of the letter.

At this point Mr W became concerned and consulted Mr Mustard. A very short letter was drafted which pointed out the car was stolen and reported to the police, that ownership had been transferred to the insurer as notified to DVLA and that Mr Mustard was now the representative of Mr W.

In less than two weeks Camden Council slammed themselves into reverse and sent the below:

The council had ample opportunity to verify the crime reference previously and had already cancelled three PCNs on the grounds of theft so that was just something to say to try and cover up why the writer's colleagues had been so useless up until then.

Other questions which arise are why the police did not tell Mr W that the vehicle was in the car pound as upon removal a record should have been made in TRACE a London wide record of all towed vehicles to which both the police and councils have access.

Given that £40 a night is being added to the bill councils should be more pro-active on getting cars released from the pound. Often the keeper or driver turns up very quickly as they need the car to get home in. If however, the car is stolen, and the police don't know or tell of the impounding, then a bill of £2,920 has already accumulated (on a vehicle worth £1,100) before anything substantive happens.

This is what the law says about removed cars:

That says, in terms, that as soon as a car is impounded the council should write to the registered keeper. Not doing so for several weeks whilst profiting from high storage charges looks like self enrichment.

As soon as Camden Council knew the car had been stolen they should have asked the obvious question, was an insurance claim made?

How did Camden Council manage to sell for £150 a car which insurers found to be worth £1,100 (an allowance must be made for there not being any keys). Who buys all the unclaimed cars? Is there a cosy arrangement with an employee of the car pound?

Why did it take the input of Mr Mustard to get this fixed? It often does. Parking managers across London know his name and his incredibly detailed knowledge of parking law and if they are wise, they sit up and take notice.

Have Camden Council now wrongly destroyed the property of the insurer? Yes.
Does the insurer know? No, probably not.
Camden Council are liable to the insurer for the amount by which the sale proceeds exceeded the costs due, which is of course zero, but only if they have taken the steps a competent authority would take to identify the true owner, which they haven't so they are probably liable to the insurer for the sum paid out (which Camden Council could reclaim from the operator of the pound).

Camden Council need to improve their procedures, that is for sure.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard


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