10. Enforcement agents
From April 2014 new regulations and procedures for the way enforcement agents (formerly bailiffs) recover unpaid debts were introduced. The aim was to bring in new measures that removed ambiguity from the process and ensure enforcement agents operate fairly for all concerned.
These measures include:
• set fees (as per legislation)
• one set of rules for all debts
• set hours of when an enforcement agent can visit
• enforcement agents can no longer enter a home when only children and/or vulnerable persons are present
• enforcement agents must give seven days notice before they can visit unless the courts specify a shorter period
We can instruct an enforcement agent to collect an unpaid council tax or business rates debt from you if a liability order has been issued in your name. We may do this as you:
1. Have not returned a completed personal information form sent to you (Council Tax only)
2. Have not made an agreed repayment plan
3. Have made an agreed repayment plan but not kept to it
Before we pass your Council Tax debt to an enforcement agent we will send you a letter telling you of the costs that they can charge you.
These are the stages that enforcement agents will follow:
If we pass your unpaid debt to an enforcement agent, you will have to pay a fixed fee of £75 that is legally due. This will apply to each liability order we send them. The enforcement agent will send you a Notice of Enforcement (this is a statutory letter) and you will have seven days to pay in full. Please respond immediately. If you are unable to pay in full the enforcement agent may agree for the debt to be repaid by instalments. Any payments or offers of payment should be made to the enforcement agent (not us).
In addition to the Notice of Enforcement, the enforcement agent may also contact you by email, text, letter or phone. It is important that you do not ignore these as once it goes to the enforcement stage an enforcement agent will visit. Then you risk losing your belongings and you will be charged additional costs.
When an enforcement agent visits, you will have to pay a further fixed fee of £235 plus 7.5 per cent for any balance due over £1,500. If you pay in full at this stage, you will still have to pay all of the costs. This will be at least £310 (£235 plus £75).
If you are unable to pay in full, the enforcement agent can either take control of your goods or enter into an acceptable agreement for you to repay the money owed – including their costs. This means they will make a list of your goods that cover the amount of your debt. If your goods are included on a Controlled Goods Agreement you cannot dispose of or sell them without the enforcement agents permission.
There are certain goods that are exempt from being included on a controlled goods agreement. For example:
• Items necessary for the basic domestic needs of the debtor and members of the debtor’s household.
• Items or equipment which are necessary for use personally by the debtor or in the debtors employment, business, trade, study, up to the value of £1,350. Above this then the exemption does not apply.
Sale or disposal stage
- Refuse to sign the Controlled Goods Agreement the enforcement agent can take your goods whilst he/she is at your property.
- Do not pay as agreed and you have signed a Controlled Goods Agreement, the enforcement agent may enter your property, by force if necessary, to take the goods listed.
Either way, you will be charged a fixed fee of £110 plus 7.5 per cent of any balance due. You may also have to pay additional costs for the sale of your goods.
It is an offence to stop an enforcement agent from carrying out his duties.
If the enforcement agent can't collect the Council Tax or business rates the debt will be returned to us to consider other recovery options to collect the outstanding debt. These options include bankruptcy, committal to prison or a charging order against your property.
The Ministry of Justice has issued national guidelines for all Enforcement Agents that sets out what the Ministry of Justice, those in the industry and some major users regard as minimum standards. It does not replace local agreements, existing agency codes of practice or legislation.
Complaints about enforcement agents
Please direct any complaints firstly to the enforcement agent. If you are dissatisfied with their response then tell us by calling 01395 517448 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and we will deal with your complaint in line with our complaints procedure.