A MOTHER had bailiffs knocking at her door demanding thousands of pounds after her landlord’s disappearance led to a housing benefits mix-up.

Fay Shanley moved into the privately rented property in Shildon four years ago with her two teenage children. Six months later the estate agent she was renting with went bust, and her housing benefit was paid directly to her landlord.

However, these cheques were never cashed so Durham County Council stopped the payments, meaning Ms Shanley was responsible for the full council tax.

Despite her best efforts, Ms Shanley, 36, has been unable to track her landlord down, and has spent years trying to get help from the council and other agencies. She has paid some of the council tax, but has fallen into arrears, and has had bailiffs showing up at her door. The family have also struggled to get repairs done on the property and have been unable to save for a deposit for a new home.

Last week, The Northern Echo contacted the council, where staff have since managed to located the owner of the property.

Paul Darby, the council’s head of finance and transactional services, said: “We have contacted Ms Shanley and are working with her and her new landlord to work out her housing benefit and council tax reduction entitlements.

“If any council tax is still owed after we have processed her application, we can then arrange a payment plan for any council tax that isn’t covered by her council tax reduction entitlement.”

Ms Shanley, who worked before the issues arose, said the experience had left her extremely stressed and upset, adding: “I’m relieved people are finally listening but you shouldn’t have to go to the press to get help. I feel angry. For years no-one would help.”