A WOMAN awaiting a heart transplant after she was left fighting for her life says she has been 'hounded' for council tax arrears caused by no fault of her own through Covid-19.

Emma Carney, 37, who nearly died last year from massive organ failure, was due to move to a house in Larkfield with fiancé Stephen McCauley last March when the country went in to complete lockdown.

The couple have now found themselves caught up in a council tax trap, after they were forced to stay in their rented Mount Pleasant Street flat for three months until restrictions on moving home lifted.

They were shocked to be slapped with demands from Inverclyde Council to pay DOUBLE council tax, to cover both properties for three months, despite their delayed move being totally out of their hands.

As the dispute continues council tax officials have now started the process of arresting postman Stephen's wages, in a bid to force them to pay.

When contacted by the Tele, Municipal Buildings bosses insisted their hands were tied because council tax legislation was not changed to allow for Covid-19 restrictions.

But Emma, who had to stop working last year and recently had to go to hospital to be treated for kidney failure, says their handling of the case has left her repeatedly breaking down.

Emma, of Fife Road, said: "It has been an absolute nightmare.

"I have cried for days from frustration, I am just so angry.

"We owe them for Fife Road this year, of course we do.

"But it is unacceptable to hold us responsible for Mount Pleasant Street as well.

"We couldn't move through no fault of our own, it was because of the laws around the lockdown.

"I was outraged when the council told me they couldn't make an allowance for Covid-19.

"They want us to pay for both properties for the three months when we were unable to move.

"It is so unreasonable.

"We don't have that kind of money for a start as I am not able to work anymore."

Emma and Stephen, 40, were delighted when they found a private let in Fife Road with a garden to help her recovery.

They were all set to move on March 24, with notice served on Mount Pleasant Street, a lease signed in Fife Road and a removal van booked - and then came the lockdown.

Emma said: "We were all set to go when it happened."

Local authority officials have since contacted Emma again, after we approached the council, seeking to offer a compromise which would stop debt collectors seizing Stephen's wages.

Emma said: "But I am refusing to pay the Mount Pleasant portion of it.

"They want an extra £300 from us to cover Mount Pleasant Street."

In January last year Emma, who suffers from the heart condition hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, was put on a life support machine in Inverclyde Royal's intensive care unit.

Her health has continued to deteriorate and she was told in November she would need a heart transplant.

Specialists at the Golden Jubilee have now taken over her care and ordered her to shield to avoid any risk of catching coronavirus.

She said: "It has been a real struggle this year.

"I have not seen anyone apart from Stephen and his daughter, apart from visits in the garden.

"The situation with the council tax has not helped one bit."

An Inverclyde Council spokesperson said: “It is regrettable that house moves were affected by national restrictions as a result of the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic last March.

“Council tax liability, discounts and exemptions are set in legislation that we have to follow.

“Unfortunately council tax legislation was not changed to take account of Covid-19 restrictions.

“Exemption from council tax is allowed for unoccupied and unfurnished property for a period of up to six months from the date the property was last occupied.

“Councils have no discretion with this time period.

“A discount of 10 per cent can be applied to empty property for a limited period and this has been applied in this instance.

“We wrote to all council tax payers with arrears in July 2020 encouraging them to get in touch with us to give people time to apply for council tax reduction or to arrange an extended payment plan if required to help alleviate financial hardship.

“Attempts are made by the council to reach an agreement over unpaid sums.

"If there is no such arrangement, council tax debt is automatically passed to a sheriff officer to take appropriate actions, which can include earnings arrestment."