Stonebridge business owner claims council rent charge error is ‘harassment’

PUBLISHED: 13:58 27 March 2019 | UPDATED: 14:36 27 March 2019

Sophie Sirak-Kebede  and husband Many Kebede's businesTobia Teff threatened with eviction. Picture: Jonathan Goldberg

Sophie Sirak-Kebede and husband Many Kebede's businesTobia Teff threatened with eviction. Picture: Jonathan Goldberg

Jonathan Goldberg

Owners of a small business in Stonebridge accused the council of “constant harassment” by sending repeated notices to pay their rent – despite the charge being settled months before.

Sophie Sirak-Kebede and husband Many Kebede, owner of health food business Tobia Teff in Lilburn Walk, are threatening legal action if Brent Council do not stop sending reminders that paid money is outstanding.

The entrepreneurs pay their rent electronically once they receive an invoice from the council.

On January 2 Ms Sirak-Kebede asked the council to send its invoice, and on January 9 paid £1,625.

This paper has seen an email from the council on January 17 saying her account is in credit.

But on January 22 she received a letter from the debt recovery team threatening “further action” due to non payment and another this month.

Ms Sirak-Kebede said: “It is not the first time this has happened. It started two years ago.

“You would assume the local authority would help or support you as a small business but this is constant.

“When you pay the invoice well in advance you assume they have it paid automatically as it is already in their account but still it takes them three months.”

The council has now stopped sending letters threatening eviction but still send constant reminders with the company name sent to debt recovery departments saying money is outstanding.

She added: “Either it’s a personal vendetta or constant harassment. That’s why I want to take them to court. It’s affecting my health now. Why get letter after letter when you pay in good faith. Somewhere along the line they are doing something unprofessional and it has to be stopped. I’m sure I’m not the only one suffering.”

A spokesperson for Brent Council said: “ On March 7 an automated reminder was sent out to Ms Sirak-Kebede regarding an invoice dated on 22 Jan 2019.

Unfortunately, the reminder was sent due to a delay in allocating the funds to her account.”

Although the council said “no other reminders have been sent to Ms Sirak-Kebede since September last year” this paper did she evidence that she had.

The spokesperson added: “We are refining our processes internally to prevent unnecessary reminders being issued again.

“Again, we are very sorry for causing Ms Sirak-Kebede any inconvenience or distress.

“We would like to assure her that we do not have a personal vendetta against her as we have always reached out to her and offered our explanations and advice at every opportunity.

“Should Ms Sirak-Kebede have any further issues, we would be more than happy to discuss this with her at any time.”

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