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The conundrum of how service paperwork got 'there'?........

Instructed by a firm of solicitors to serve a payment demand on an individual, we noted when the file was loaded that we had previously served this same respondent with a council related application, 2 years previously. She was personally served at the address provided with this new instruction, and we had retained a physical description on file from the previous service. As is usual when we have served someone previously, we instructed the same process server to deal with the matter again.

A first visit to the service address (known to be a local authority flat) met with no response, and contact details were left through the letterbox of the address. A further visit was made 3 days later, and again there was no response. Neighbours suggested the respondent would be in later that evening.

A short time later the process server received a telephone call from the debtor. She stated she had received the contact note, and was in town shopping with her sister. The agent made arrangements to meet personally with her in a local pub car park, and personally served her with the Demand. She was identified by admission, and the process server recognised her from two years previously.

Job done..... or was it?

A week later, the office received a mobile telephone call from a female who stated her mother, who suffered from dementia, had both the contact card and the Demand in her property, and they did not know how it had got there. She was not the debtor, and had seemingly moved into the debtors property 6 weeks previously. The caller stated her mother was renting the property, and received countless letters addressed to the debtor, but the landlord had failed to collect them despite saying they would. She was now returning them all to sender. She stated that her mother could not remember how the paperwork had come to be in the kitchen. She stated her mother did not have a mobile telephone, and should not be outside the property, although had been found walking outside in her pyjamas on occasion so it was possible she had been in town when she shouldn't have been. The female said they had problems with the carers not turning up, and neighbours had stated people were coming and going from the address all the time.

So, the debtor was personally served (we know this as not only did she admit her identity but she was recognised by the process server), but now the paperwork (which we were told was wet and dirty) was inside an address that she had seemingly left more than 6 weeks ago...... how was this possible? There seemed no logical explanation for how the paperwork could be inside that property unless either 1. the female caller was lying, 2. the debtor still had access to the property despite having left, and was potentially exploiting a vulnerable person 3. someone had found the paperwork somewhere and put it through the letterbox of the address, given that was the address on the Demand.

So, how were we going to work out what had happened?

Firstly we obtained a physical description from the female of her mother - she did not match the description of the debtor AT ALL - there is no way it could have been her who was served in error. Secondly, we asked the female to provide a copy of her mothers tenancy agreement........ we knew the property was local authority as we'd had dealings here before.

While we waited for the tenancy agreement to be sent (it was supposed to be sent immediately, but had not come through by the end of the day - this was making us suspicious), we spoke with the local authority, who are also a client of ours, who confirmed to us that the tenant of the property was the same tenant who had been in occupation in 2019 i.e. the debtor. So, we are now left with 2 possible scenarios - 1. the female is lying and trying to say the debtor does not have the demand (she is extremely convincing if she is) 2. the female is genuine, which must mean the property is being illegally sublet by the debtor, who still has a key to the property and is letting herself in there. The local authority decided they were going to do an adhoc tenancy check at the property to see if they could determine whether the property was being sublet, and we would await the copy tenancy agreement.

While waiting for the tenancy check, our office received another call from the daughter of the supposed resident of the address, now stating that they had discovered the debtor had retained a key for the property, and had been letting herself in there. Apparently the daughter had spoken to the debtor who confirmed she had been back to the address and left the paperwork behind.

To add to the confusion, the tenancy check conducted by the housing association concluded the debtor remained the tenant at the address, as they had met her there.

What was apparent, is that the debtor had definitely been personally served, so the matter was able to progress..... and incidentally, when the bankruptcy petition was issued, we returned to that address and personally served the debtor there!

We never did get to the bottom of exactly who was actually living at the address at the time the Demand was served...........

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