UCL Engineer Landed with £2,000 Council Tax Bill after Halls “managed to lose or forget” Student Status Letter

UCL finalist Rareş Ivan had a shocking surprise last term when he was landed with a £2,000 council tax bill. He realised something in the administration of his council tax exemption had gone horribly wrong at his halls of residence. Now he is warning other international students to avoid the same nightmare.

Ivan, 24, completed a degree in mechanical engineering last term. He took in at Urbanest King’s Cross on Canal Reach in September 2018. As usual, he handed his student status letter to the accommodation reception to avoid falling onto Camden Council’s tax roll. However, something went wrong.

Bureaucratic nightmare

“Somehow the guys at Urbanest managed to lose or forget to send my student status,” Ivan told London Student.  He continued: “I ended up receiving an invoice stating that I was overdue on my council tax, even though I was a student.”

He said the council’s undated letter told him he was overdue “around £2,000” in tax on his rented study bedroom.

He also noted that this problem never occurred in any other hall where he had lived in London. Previously halls had always stayed true to their word and forwarded his letter to the council.

Staggered, Ivan recalls that he enquired with the staff at the private halls if they had encountered similar situations. He remembers that a receptionist told him: “a lot of students end up in situations like this but they usually call the council.”

“They [Urbanest] put all the responsibility on my shoulders,” Ivan maintains. He said he received no apology from the landlord for their error.

Fortunately, Ivan did not have to pay most of the bill. But further calamity lay in store.

Unintended consequences

Since he graduated last June but Urbanest contracts run until September, he and many other finalists became liable for the council tax on their rooms.

As an international student, Ivan is disappointed that this was not made clear by Urbanest when he signed his contact last year. He said: “For someone who isn’t from the UK, you don’t think about these things at first sight until you have this kind of experiences.” Even though he had left the UK he was obliged to pay £440 to Camden.

Helping others

Ivan is determined to warn other international students, so they can avoid similar bureaucratic pitfalls. In a YouTube video, he calls on others to “avoid Urbanest accommodation”.

The video also depicts a deep hole in the wall hidden above a bookshelf in Ivan’s room, of which he was not aware when he moved in.

Passed “en-masse to the relevant council”

Samantha, a spokesperson for Urbanest said she could not comment on Ivan’s case. She said that Urbanest “collate all council tax exemption forms/registration forms across our seven properties between the date that students check-in until the end of October”. After this, she said, they are passed “en-masse to the relevant council”.

Regarding council tax for finalists, Samantha said that Urbanest “have not been made aware of any of these charges being brought to our attention.” She stated that maintenance problems at Urbanest would be investigated the same or next day that they were reported and that residents would be kept updated if repairs could not take place swiftly.

Ivan confirmed to London Student that he submitted his student status letter before the end of October.

The duty manager at Urbanest King’s Cross told London Student he was willing to “discuss this with the resident named on the contract.” He declined to comment on individual cases or on whether other residents were affected.

Rents for single rooms at Urbanest King’s Cross range from £309 to £579 per week.

Photo credit: Matt Kieffer under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic.

Opinion Editor. Cambridge History PhD student.

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