Unlike the story under the cartoon, this one does not appear to end happily. Ken and Sheila Datoo got in touch with a handful of problems after leaving the business. Ken wrote: “Taking the decision to close the business that we ran for 25 years was a very tough one for us to make. To top it all, despite not trading, everybody seems to want a share of their pound in blood!”

Their first problem was with their water company. Ken says that, despite informing Thames Water that they had ceased trading and that the business premises were being converted to residential use, they wanted proof in the form of a certificate from the council, but the council would only issue a certificate on completion of the works. Meanwhile, they are still being charged commercial rates.

This wasn’t something I could influence, but I sent them to Ofwat, the regulator, which should be able to help with disputes.

It was a similar story with the council over business rates.

“We notified London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham Rates Dept that we were ceasing to trade and that the premises were being converted to residential use as per the planning permission granted in February 2014.”

He adds: “I was informed over the phone that the ‘empty premises relief’ will be applied for the first three months the premises are empty and after that the full rates excluding the relief will be payable. We are no longer trading and the premises are no longer commercial premises. Construction work is under way and the building is uninhabitable. The council is insisting that while the property is on the Rates Valuation Register we are obliged to pay the business rates. For a period of three months we have received a demand for £833.”

Ken also says that other commercial buildings on the same road which have been converted to residential were not required to pay the business rates.

Again, all I could do was refer Ken to another Ken for better advice than I could give. Chartered surveyor Ken Batty has many years’ experience and is always willing to help.

But it was the third problem where I thought I could actually help, by appealing to Payzone’s better nature.

Ken explains: “Elavon merchant services for the store were being provided through Payzone. Notice was given to Payzone that we were ceasing trading from the 3 October.

“Payzone terminated their service including the Elavon Chip & PIN service on 1 October 2016. No transactions were conducted after 30 September. All outstanding payments to Payzone for top-up and utility services were collected via Londis’ central account.

“Elavon’s service charge for the month of September was collected by direct debit in October. Elavon are claiming we are required to give them notice and are charging us £24.90 being the minimum service charge for the months of October and November under the terms of their contract.”

The Datoos were not aware of any contract, neither were they informed by Payzone that they were required to give Elavon notice.

“We wrote to them via email and offered to settle one month’s service charge and asked them to waive the November service charge in good faith as we have been a customer for the past 20 years never defaulting on any payments.”

It looked to me that Payzone were really responsible, but they didn’t respond to my request that they absorb what to them would be a small sum. Instead, the Datoos now have a debt collector chasing on behalf of Elavon.

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