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Yet another gem from the annals of Corporate Corpsepicking.

I rang Portsmouth City Council back in April, only a few days after my brother died to inform them of his passing and was told in no uncertain terms that they had no intention of speaking to me until I had a Grant of Administration.  They then hung up.    I left the council alone, figuring that once they wanted some money they would soon be in touch.  Call me cynical but it obviously worked.

About 2 weeks ago I received a telephone call from Portsmouth City Council’s Leashold department regarding “unpaid services charges” on my brother’s (now obviously very vacant) flat in the city.  I spoke to a very nice lady who wanted to know 2 things: why they hadn’t had a copy of the Death Certificate; and what was happening about services charges on the flat. I told her about the phone call and arranged to send a Death Certificate.  Bear in mind here that, due to massive bureaucratic cock ups with the Probate Office I still do not have the Grant.  This obvioiusly matters not if they think I am going to give them some cash.

I was then informed that there were unpaid service charges.  I informed her of the financial condition of the estate and that I did not feel that as an unsecured creditor they were likely to see any money.  I was then told (and I quote) “The Council already has a court order allowing them to repossess the property if these are not paid”.  So, I ask for a copy of the statement on the account, and also a copy of the court order which was not among my brother’s effects.

Yesterday I receive a statement which indicates that in February 2013 there was in actual fact a zero balance on the account.  Amounts had been added for March 2013 (when he was alive, fair enough) and for the whole of April (when he had died on the 4th).  They then add another £500 for unpaid services charges for May, June, July and August.  I am not sure that a contract to pay a service charge continues once the person contracting to pay it dies, particularly since neither he nor anyone else is using the “services” being provided.

Oh yes the “Court Order”.  This was obviously a mistake.  Or maybe designed to panic me into paying the charges out of my own pocket to save the property. (Blood out of a stone anyone?).

Although we have previously obtained County Court Judgements for service charges arrears…have paid the arrears ….  There are therefore no outstanding judgements at this time

The moral of the story being: These corporations will say or do anything to raise revenue. If you are dealing with a deceased estate always ask for documentary proof of anything they tell you.

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