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  1. This is yet another important decision from the Local Government Ombudsman and one that once again makes clear that if a debtor who is subject to bailiff enforcement considers that he may be 'vulnerable', he must be prepared to provide evidence and outline how his 'vulnerability' affects his ability to deal with the debt. In brief, Mr B's complaint was as follows: Mr B incurred 5 penalty charge notices. He believes that there is a law from the year 1600 that means that he can’t be fined and so can park anywhere. He and his wife both have Blue Badges and he considered that being granted a Blue Badge means that he has meet the criteria for ‘vulnerability’. Mr B told the Council he was a vulnerable person. However, he had not explained why he considers he is vulnerable. He was of the opinion that it is the Council’s job to prove he is not. Mr B complained a business centre issued the warrants rather than a court and so were invalid. Mr B complains that the bailiffs did not have the correct warrants. The Council has said the court sends the warrants electronically and so there are no paper copies. PS: A copy of the decision can be read in the following post.
  2. Devon County County (16 017 119) Decision date: 17th August 2017. Published on the LGO website: 17th November 2017 Vulnerability and bailiff enforcement is a subject that is of great importance and sadly, it is a subject that is very much misunderstood. The LGO have made a number of decisions regarding the 'definition' of vulnerability and the following case is another one where the LGO confirm that a 'vulnerable' debtor must provide evidence to demonstrate how their vulnerability affects their ability to deal with the debt. PS: The following is a shortened copy of the decision. A full copy can be accessed from the link at the foot of the post. Background: (9) Mr B has received 5 penalty charge notices (PCN) for parking offences since 2014. A parking enforcement officer placed two on the car and Mr B received three through the post. On the telephone, Mr B told me that he did not take account of parking laws as he believes there is a law from the year 1600 that means he can’t be fined and so can park anywhere. (16) The Council has said that Mr B first used the words’ vulnerable’ about his wife and him both having Blue Badges on 3 December 2015. (17) The Council said it advised Mr B on 5 July to contact the bailiffs for them to consider his ‘vulnerability’ and for him to provide them with whatever evidence they need to confirm his status as vulnerable. The Council advised Mr B that if the bailiff did deem his to be a vulnerable household the Council would withdraw the warrant and cease activity. (18) The Council said Mr B did not supply the bailiffs with supporting evidence. It has said the blue badge issued to Mr B, shows they have met the criteria of limited mobility to have a blue badge issued but may not necessarily be vulnerable. (19) The Council says that Mr B thinks that his vulnerability means that he is exempt from paying these fines. The Council says it disagrees with Mr B’s interpretation. It considers he is still liable to pay these fines, but any vulnerability means the Council has to consider extra discretion over how these fines are paid, e.g. deferring payment periods, accepting lower instalments until debts paid. (20) The Council has asked Mr B to provide supporting written evidence of his ‘vulnerability’ for it to find out if there are other conditions from which he suffers that may fit his interpretation of vulnerability, e.g. Mental health, depression, post- traumatic stress, at risk of self-harm, inability to understand and engage with the process. The Council says that if Mr B does meet any of these criteria, then it may withdraw the warrants and close the cases. Mr B has not provided supporting evidence. Analysis from the Local Government Ombudsman: (23) Mr B complained a business centre issued the warrants rather than a court and so were invalid. The TEC is the court appointed by the Secretary of State and the Department of Transport to deal with registration of debts arising from penalty charge notices. I can find no fault on this point. (24) Mr B complains the bailiffs did not have the correct warrants. The Council has said the court sends the warrants electronically and so there are no paper copies. For completeness, I will ask the Council to send me its electronic records showing the warrants but I can see no evidence of fault on this point. (25) Mr B believes that under the Taking Control of Goods National Standards 2010, (updated 2015) as soon as he told the bailiff company finds out he is vulnerable (with no explanation) they have to withdraw. He believes that he does not need to provide details of his details of his vulnerability; it is then the Council’s job to prove he isn’t. (26) The Taking Control of Goods Regulations 2013, part 2, regulation 10 set out the circumstances in which an enforcement agent may not take control of goods. It says an enforcement agent may not take control of goods of a debtor where a child or vulnerable person is the only person present. The legislation does not give any further guidance about how a vulnerable person is defined. (27) Mr B told the Council he was a vulnerable person. However, he has not explained why he considers he is vulnerable. He considers that it is the Council’s job to prove he is not. (28) It cannot be right that a person can say they are vulnerable and all outstanding debts are written off without them giving further information. If this was the case, then there would be no way for the Council to enforce any debt collection as anybody could claim vulnerability without evidence. I do consider it reasonable for Mr B to explain why he considers himself to be vulnerable. (29) In any case, a vulnerable person still has to pay the fines, but any vulnerability means the Council has to consider extra discretion over how the debtor pays the fines, e.g. deferring payment periods or accepting lower instalments. It should also allow the vulnerable person time to get help and advice. (30) I have found no fault in the Council’s actions. The Council gave Mr B the opportunity to appeal the PCN’s and to appeal to the court. No further recovery action has been taken once he told the bailiffs and Council he is vulnerable. However, I do consider it reasonable for him to give details of his vulnerability if he wants the Council to consider removing the warrants. http://www.lgo.org.uk/decisions/transport-and-highways/parking-and-other-penalties/16-017-119
  3. The following LGO decision (which was only released this week) is a vitally important one as it deals with a number of misconceptions and inaccurate advice regarding bailiff enforcement. For instance, this decision addresses the following misconceptions:
  4. The following is another very recent decision from the Local Government Ombudsman on the subject of vulnerability. Once again, the LGO confirm that evidence needs to be provided if a person considers that they may be 'vulnerable'. Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council PS: The following is a short version of the decision. A link to read the full report is at the end of this post. The complaint Mr X complains that the Council has unreasonably taken Council tax enforcement action against him despite his vulnerability. What I found The law says people must pay their council tax before the installment date stated on the bill. If people pay late on more than two occasions they lose the right to pay by installments. The Council can then demand that they pay the full amount which is due for the rest of the year. If they do not pay the Council can serve a summons and ask the magistrates for a liability order. A liability order is an order confirming the person must pay the council tax and costs. Further costs are incurred when magistrates grant a liability order. If someone does not pay the council tax, and the costs, the Council can ask enforcement agents to collect the debt. Enforcement agents charge fees which must also be paid. Mr X has council tax arrears from 2013/14 and 2014/15. The Council has provided evidence of Mr X’s non payment of Council tax and the courts upheld the summonses when they issued the Liability Orders. Mr X did not make any arrangements to pay his council tax arrears. In November 2014 Mr X told the Council he was a vulnerable person. The Council asked him to provide evidence and held his account for a month to give him time to provide the evidence. Mr X did not provide evidence of his vulnerability and the Council sent his account to enforcement agents (bailiffs) for collection. Councils can use enforcement agents to enforce Council tax debts. Mr X says they should not be used as he is vulnerable person. The enforcement agents wrote to Mr X in November 2014 asking for medical evidence of his vulnerability signed by his GP or a medical professional. They did not receive any medical evidence from Mr X. In September 2015 Mr X sent the Council a copy of a letter from his local mental health team inviting him to an appointment as evidence of his vulnerable status. In October the enforcement agents wrote to Mr X detailing the amounts he had to pay to clear his council tax arrears. Mr X provided the council tax department with a copy of a letter to the Housing Office on 25 January 2016 about his mental health. The Council told the enforcement agents who arranged for its welfare team to deal with him as they are experienced in dealing with vulnerable people. The enforcement agents returned Mr X’s accounts to the Council as they could not contact him. The Council contacted Mr X numerous times about the arrears on this council tax accounts. The law allows councils to instruct enforcement agents once the court has issued a liability order. The law also says that the court costs and fees charged by the enforcement agents must be paid. Although Mr X says he is a vulnerable person, he did not provide evidence of this to the Council until January 2016. Without evidence to support Mr X’s contention that enforcement agents should not be used, there is no evidence of fault in the Council’s decision to utilise them. Final decision There is no evidence the Council has been unreasonable in its decision to take enforcement action against Mr X for council tax arrears. http://www.lgo.org.uk/decisions/benefits-and-tax/council-tax/16-001-201
  5. There has been much debate on the forum regarding the important subject of 'vulnerability' when a debt (usually council tax arrears) is being enforced by a bailiff. Many posters have different opinions as to whether or not, when vulnerability is identified, the account should be returned to the local authority and bailiff fees removed, or managed by the enforcement companies in house Welfare Dept etc etc. Whilst opinions will no doubt vary on this very important subject, it may be of interest to know what the Local Government Ombudsman's view is of this subject. If a debtor wishes to have a complaint considered by the Local Government Ombudsman, they must first take their complaint to the relevant local authority and exhaust the first stage and second stage complaints procedure. The complaint may then be considered by the LGO. All Local Government Ombudsman's decisions are reported on-line. These reports are made public 3 months after the final decision. The local authorities name is revealed but the complainants details are not.
  6. If a person is considered vulnerable, the enforcement regulations provide some protection from bailiff action. However, such protection is only possible if the bailiff/enforcement company are aware of the vulnerability at the earliest possible stage. Vulnerability for ‘enforcement’ purposes is very difficult to define and being disabled does not necessarily mean that a person will be excluded from bailiff enforcement. For example; some people may be constantly vulnerable (due to permanent lack of mental capacity or very severe disability etc), but others only temporarily vulnerable (for example, through suffering mental illness for a short period of time, recently bereaved, pregnancy, unemployment etc). Each case is unique and will be looked at individually by the enforcement company or bailiff. By and large, when it comes to bailiff enforcement, vulnerability is usually reserved for extreme cases. An example could be where the individual is unable to manage his or her own affairs etc or where the medical condition of the vulnerable person could worsen if a bailiff were to visit. The Taking Control of Goods: National Standards 2014 Although the National Standards are not legally binding, they are nonetheless a very helpful tool for the enforcement industry and creditors. On the difficult subject of vulnerability, the National Standards provide that the following groups might be considered vulnerable: The elderly People with a disability The seriously ill The recently bereaved Single parent families Pregnant women Unemployed people Those who have difficulty in understanding, speaking or reading English Motor vehicles and vulnerability The statutory regulations provide that a vehicle that is used for transportation needs of a disabled person will be exempt from being taken into control as long as it is displaying a valid blue disability badge. Bailiff fees and vulnerability Further protection for vulnerable debtors is provided under Regulation 12 of the Taking Control of Goods (Fees) Regulations 2014 and states that if the enforcement agent visits the property and identifies the person owing the debt as being vulnerable, that he should not remove goods. Instead, he must give the debtor a chance to seek advice from a debt advice agency/charity etc. If he fails to do so, the enforcement fee of £235 is not recoverable. Do I have to provide any evidence that I may be vulnerable? Usually evidence is required. In the first instance, it is vitally important to contact the enforcement agency at the earliest opportunity (on receipt of the Notice of Enforcement) as this could avoid the need for a personal visit being made. Initial contact should be made by telephone and a brief outline of your personal circumstances should be given to the operator who will usually advise what documentary evidence they require. Very often a letter from a doctor or specialist is required or a copy of a letter from the DWP confirming an award of Disability Living Allowance/ PIP/Carers Allowance etc. Bailiff enforcement and vulnerable households. Unfortunately, there are a number of internet sites that encourage people to send a letter to the enforcement agent to claim that they are from a vulnerable household in the mistaken belief that the enforcement agent will return the debt back to the council or court. These letters are mass produced and accordingly, have become popular on many of the Freeman on the Land/debt avoidance websites. Given the serious misrepresentation of the regulations in the letter, it is hardly surprising that the majority of enforcement companies do not take the letter seriously. If there is serious disability in the family (for instance, where the parent or partner is the registered carer for a son, daughter or spouse) whilst this does not exclude the bailiff from taking enforcement action against the debtor, it is nonetheless vitally important to bring such instances to the attention of the enforcement agency at the earliest possible stage as it may affect the approach made by the enforcement agent and possibly lead to the debt being managed in-house by the enforcement company’s Welfare Department as opposed to it being passed to an individual enforcement agent. Will my debt be returned to the council/court? Only in exceptional cases. This is because, since the regulations were overhauled in April 2014, most enforcement companies now have in-house Welfare Departments and what usually happens, is that once vulnerability has been identified, an affordable payment arrangement is set up and the account managed in-house by the trained Welfare Team. Note: If any visitors to the forum consider that they may be vulnerable and are having difficulty getting the enforcement agent to accept their explanation or evidence, then please ask a question on the forum. We are all here to provide help and assistance. Bailiff enforcement All about Vulnerability.pdf Before Printing the PDF TIP If you DO NOT wish to print Page 1 (Cover Page) of the PDF, please ensure to do the following: Ensure you go to your Printer Settings and set it to 'Print from Page 2' (this way Page 1 (Cover Page) should not print out). Note: This will save you Ink & Paper
  7. Oh dear. Only days after Apple released OS X 10.10.5, fixing a host of security flaws, a further serious (and as yet unpatched) vulnerability has been made public, by an Italian teenager who says he researches security holes in his spare time. Luca Todesco has released details of a zero-day vulnerability in OS X 10.9.5 and OS X 10.10.5, the latest shipping version of Apple's desktop and laptop operating system. According to MacIssues, the problem identified by Todesco lies in how OS X handles NULL pointers in programs, opening an opportunity for malicious code to bypass the operating system's defences. Fortunately, the attack does depend upon unsuspecting users downloading and agreeing to execute malicious code on their computer — although, as we all know, malicious hackers are experts at using social engineering and compelling lures to trick the unwary into making unwise decisions. Some have already criticised 18-year-old Todesco for making available proof-of-concept code that exploits the unpatched OS X vulnerability, but on Twitter he appears to be unrepentant: Follow Luca Todesco @qwertyoruiop "considering filing a lawsuit against Todesco for his gross negligence in releasing the how-to for this exploit" - guns don't kill people 12:12 AM - 17 Aug 2015 10 10 Retweets 16 16 favorites Once again, I'm inclined to believe that Apple might get more assistance from independent vulnerability researchers if it were to offer a financial reward for the responsible disclosure of bugs, rather than take its current — somewhat aloof — approach. It remains to be seen whether Apple will release a patch for this latest vulnerabilities, or attempt to wait until OS X 10.11 El Capitan ships (the beta version reportedly already thwarts this particular attack). Personally, my hope is that they will do the right thing and protect users of their current official shipping version rather than leave them in the lurch until they are ready to upgrade. Meanwhile, the Thunderstrike 2 vulnerability continues to remain unpatched by Apple. One hopes that the fix for that — like Todesco's zero-day vulnerability — will be coming sooner rather than later. Apple, please get the bugs fixed. Then sort out your relationship with the vulnerability researchers. Link
  8. This thread seeks to examine the provisions contained within the Tribunals Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 in regards to the protection of vulnerable debtors.
  9. Hi I need some help please my (friend's) wife and her husband have a debt from an old business associate (long story) - long and short of it they now have a high court writ for just over £24k. I have been to the court twice to get it set aside 1) they are both on income based JSA 2) medical grounds / vulnerability - both of which were rejected as the claimant should be given the opportunity to get the money back by way of the sheriffs so the writ still stands. I spoke to CAB and stepchange and both have agreed that bankruptcy is the way forward (although they have to wait over 8 weeks to try and get the £1050 grant from british gas!) however they still need to deal with the sheriffs for the wife's sake! I sent the following letter to them: To: The Sheriffs Office Date: 26th November 2014 Dear Sirs, Re: ************************************* Account reference: ************* Claim Number: ************* We refer to your letter dated 14/11/2014 informing us that your company have been instructed by *************High Court to enforce a High Court Writ against *************, in respect of Writ Claim Number *************. In your letter you state that you will be visiting/returning to our home to remove our goods unless full payment of £24,125.47 is made by 17/11/2014. The purpose of this letter is to advise your company that we believe that our circumstances fall within the category as contained within the National Standards for Enforcement Agents of “vulnerable situations”. The reason for this is that: • ************* are in receipt of Income Based JSA (see attached proof of claim) • ************* is in long term ill health with High Blood Pressure, Severe Anxiety & Hypertension which escalates when she gets anxious (see attached proof of medical evidence) • *************’s relative passed away on 3rd November and was laid to rest on 12/11/2014 (see attached proof of cremation service) Accordingly, we would like to request that you do not visit our property & would refrain from calling our phone and that you would converse via letter / email as this would cause undue stress and anxiety. Instead, we would like to request that you return this case back to the claimant / high court. We would be grateful if you could confirm safe receipt of this letter, and confirmation that the case returned to the claimant / high court. We have received advice from StepChange Debt Charity to help solve my debt problem. We are in financial difficulties at the moment and not able to meet my normal monthly payments. We will make a monthly payment of whatever we can afford until more money is available. We have enclosed our monthly budget and a list of creditors. After paying our household bills, we can pay you £1. We will pay this each month and tell you when our circumstances change. We will continue working with StepChange Debt Charity to improve our circumstances and find a more permanent solution to repay our debt. In the meantime, please consider reducing or stopping interest or any other charges on our account to help us during our financial difficulties. We have retained a copy of this letter for future reference. Yours Faithfully, ************* By which they have now replied: Dear Sir/Madam, Re: ********** -v- ********** ********** Claim Number: ********** Thank you for your email dated 26th November. We have noted our system accordingly. Please note your token offer to pay £1.00 per month has been rejected. We require you to submit reasonable payment proposals to us. Please note this is a high priority debt and as such we require revised proposals to be submitted within 3 days. We would confirm the balance currently stands at £24,183.76 with daily interest being applied. We await hearing from you in due course. Yours faithfully, The Sheriffs Office This is her Dr's letter that accompanied the original letter: ********* is registered with our practice since 1994 and i am one of the GPs she consults. She suffers from Anxiety and Hypertension Over the past 12 months she has been suffering from severe anxiety and is on three lots of medication to help her anxiety symptoms she also has been having high blood pressure which escalates when she gets anxious Yours sincerely Dr ********* What are the other choices? they cant pay anymore than max £4 per month - they have over£15k of other debt (unsecured various) - the main debt is this one but they also have rent and c/tax debt too which i thought were priority debts - not this one? I'm going to write back saying they can only pay a max of £4 a mth - they have seen our financial statement and believe me they haven't got anything else! - they even asked the CAB if they should just let them in to see but they advised not to!? Any other suggestions please? they are getting desperate now and this is putting more and more stress on his wife which is not good for her health! Thanks in advance - play the devils advocate as much as you like - i can take it ive thought of everything as far as i can tell and I just dont know where to turn!
  10. I think this is in the rite place as in the long run it will be thrown at the council or a bailiff if need be. This is to do with council tax. If someone has suffered from depression for a long period, 6 years roughly, and has been taking anti-depressants for that length of time, are they classed as vulnerable. They have trouble coping even for one day if they miss there daily dose, and trust me, they have tried to cut down slowly because they want to get off them but there's a big change in them within a couple of days even if they only take half a dose of there medication each day. Would this be enough to throw at the council to get them to stop sticking the boot in.. Thanks for any replies in advance...
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