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hi there im wondering if anyone can help me please.

 

Long story cut short, had bailiffs at the door, chasing 2 years c/tax. 2008/9-2009-10.

 

I first received a notice of removal of goods for both years, with the amounts on inc costs. No mention of what the actual costs were.

 

Couple of days later, he comes back again, I spoke to him outside, (wouldnt let him in the house). He tried to levy a friends car, I told him that I was paying the council direct by standing order each month. He told me that as the acct was passed to them, i need to pay them only. This I refused.

 

Then he said, that the only way I could pay via installments, was for him to come in the house and do a levy. I refused this also, stating that I have paid the council direct, and will continue to do so.

 

Now he seemed like a nice guy, so we chatted, and I asked him about cars, he said, if there is a car there, we can and will levy it. I asked, what if its on finance?, (which ours is). To be told depending on the amount outstanding on the finance, we can get in touch with the finance company and do the levy that way.

 

Told him, well the car is in the wifes name, and has been ever since we bought it. The actual council tax bill is in my name only. So you cant levy on the car. Also its classed as a disabled car, as I am disabled.

 

He said, well if you dont pay me, another guy will come along, and you will have to go through it all again..

 

Fast forward to 9th Oct, when another bailiff visits. Leaves 2 removal of goods notices. With the following details..

 

1238.96 inc costs (No mention of costs) 2009 bill

1042.34 2008 bill

 

Now heres where it gets good..

 

Ttl c/t for 2008 was £849.84. Since paid £250. via standing order so bal o/s now is £599.84

 

They want a total of £1042.34 for that yrs tax.

Difference of £192.50.

I know the council have added £75 to that yrs tax, making the starting balance of £924.84.

Adding the bailifs fees of £42.50, brings it to £967.34.

Making a difference of £75.00?? Not sure what this is for..

 

TTL c/t for 2009 is £1082.96. Adding the £75.00 brings it to £1157.96.

 

The notice states £1238.96, making a difference of £81.00.

 

Again no idea as to what this is for..

 

Speak to the 2nd bailiff, who told me in no uncertain terms, that he would be round tomorrow (10th Oct), with a van, to remove all the items in the house, which will add additional fees to the total.

 

I told him, that I welcome his presence, as I would like to speak to him regarding the notices, as the fees are incorrect. Also how can he turn up with a van, when there has been no levy what so ever, and will never be a levy. Told him I am also classed as a vunerable person, as I am disabled, and the council are aware of this. The guy turns nasty, and puts the phone down on me.

 

I send jacobs the truth letter on the 10th October, and to date no reply. Also emailed the council direct with their letter. Again no reply.

 

So I emailed both again yesterday, just received a call off the council asking what the letter was for. I mentioned that there is a discrepancy with their fees, and I will not be paying the bailiffs a penny. At most, it will be £42.50 for their fees, and nothing else.

 

The council guy told me, that he will contact jacobs and find out exactly what charges are on the account, and get back to me.

 

5 mins later, hes back on the phone, stating that jacobs did not know about the payments being made, they are aware of it now. Also stated that there are fees of £42.50 for 1 years bill. Nothing else. Hmm strange me thinks, considering I have the letters here..

 

I then said thank you, and I will continue to pay you direct via the website. To be told, as the account is with the bailiff, I HAVE to pay them direct. I cannot pay the council. If I dont pay them direct, then they will continue to contact me, and their fees will continue to add up. I also HAVE to contact the 2nd bailiff, to arrange payment.

 

I asked him to put both of these conversations in writing for me to consider.

 

Question time. Now I know that they cannot enter the premises and remove goods, as no wpa has been signed, nor have they gained entry, and wont do..?

 

Can I continue to pay the council direct, which is what im aiming to do, to get everything paid off by the end of april.?

 

IF they do come back again, and attempt a levy on the car, what would happen, as the tax disc clearly shows disabled, and I have the proof of the other items..?

 

If I get the truth letter reply back off jacobs and their fees are the £24.00 + £18.50 only, can anything be done, regarding the discrepencies on the notices?

 

Do I have to pay the bailiff their fees of £42.50?

 

What if anything can I do about the truth letter not being replied to, as it has been sent twice, by email, and once by post. (to the correct email addresses)?

 

The council in no uncertain terms have told me, they will not be taking the debt back.

 

sorry for the long post, any help would be greatly appreciated.

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Just this second received a reply off Jacobs..

 

Dear Mr JGG

 

 

We thank you for your recent email the contents have been noted.

 

We write to advise that we responded to your first request for the following information by post on the 16th October 2009, If you have not received this letter we respectfully request you check with the post office regarding this.

 

We have sent another statement of your account in the post to you please allow several days for this to be received due to the postal strike.

 

Please contact our bailiff Mr xxx xxx immediately regarding your accounts as the Local Authority have instructed us to continue with further recovery action he can be contacted on xxxxxxxx.

 

The following is a copy of the contents of the letter

 

 

We acknowledge receipt of your e-mail dated 10th October 2009 and note the contents therein.

 

We can also confirm that our Enforcement Bailiff obtained his certificate from Liverpool County Court on 27th May 2009.

 

Enclosed is a statement of the account for your perusal showing the balance outstanding any fees / charges that have been added to the account and all payments received.

 

We have been instructed by Salford City Council to pursue you in respect of the outstanding balance.

 

All fees that have been added to the account have been added in accordance with legislation. Therefore, no refund will be given. If you do not you do not agree with the said fees then respectfully suggest you seek independent legal advice.

 

For your information all our duties are carried out on behalf of the Local Authority. Therefore any work carried out on their behalf is always done so with in the law as is any other work that we do.

 

 

Jacobs.

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My thoughts too thanks hallow. I cant wait to see their statement of fees. What could I possibly do, if there is a discrepency from the statement, and what this guy is actually charging?.. If anything that is..

 

And thanks andie, look forward to seeing this letter.

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Try this - obviously ammend as necessary - my letter was slightly different as it involved a number of other things but the basis is still the same and I got a very quick climb down and back off from them.

 

 

URGENT COMPLAINT

Ref: INSERT NUMBER(S)

 

Dear Sir/Madam

 

I am writing to you with an urgent complaint I have regarding your companies behavoiur on the above account.

 

I believe you are currently instructed by INSERT COUNCIL NAME to collect an outstanding council tax for the years 08/09 and 09/10.

 

I have written to you previously for a breakdown of how you have calculated the account as I believe the inital breakdown given to me by INSERT BAILIFF NAME was calculated incorrectly. I assume this was an error on your part and not a deliberate attempt to decieve me or inflate the legal fees you are allowed to charge.

 

To date I have not recieved such a statement.

 

Your bailiff representative has also been informed that I have been paying the amount direct to the council in regular monthly installments and he has claimed I legally MUST pay your company. I am sure you are fully aware that the law states that I must pay my council tax bill - it does not state who I must pay that to.

 

Both your company and its representative in INSERT BAILIFF NAME has been informed that I am registered disabled and therefore classed as a vulnerable party under guideline set down by the Office Of Fair Trading. It seems that your company has chosen to disregard this matter in breach of those regulations by continuing harassing actions.

This is disgusting behaviour from your company to someone that is indeed paying what is owed and doing so on a regular basis.

 

I expect now that you contact your bailiff and have him return my file to your office immediately.

 

Should this not be done I will have no further alternative but to contact the OFT and file a formal complaint against your company. I will also be informing the council and copying the Revenue Manager into further correspondance.

 

I ask that you pass my file back to the council and I will pay them directly.

 

I have attached a read receipt to this email as confirmation that it has been received and I expect this to be acted upon immediately - your bailiff with my account needs to be contacted today and informed of the circumstances.

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not a problem - what I will say is though my letter that finally got through to them was about the 7th or 8th in succession before it seemed to hit home - I also followed up on my threats and wrote stinging letters to both the head of revenues at the council and the head of the council themselves.

 

As Jacobs are the councils agent the council are responsible for their actions and therefore if they are harrassing a vulnerable party the council is liable for that.

 

Joe Bloggs in the council tax office doesn't give a s**t but the elected officials such as the head of the council have a bit more to lose :)

 

Let me know what comes back as I will be more than willng to keep firing off email after email til they get the point and I will do you a letter for your council if you wish.

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I will definately keep you informed of progress or lack of on this mate.

 

What really got my goat up was the call off the guy at the council, where he stated that I MUST only pay Jacobs.. yeah right as if. Why should we be penalised by paying an additional £2, each month for paying with a debit card, on top of everything else.. I dont think so..

 

I am waiting on the contents of the call from the guy at the council, who said he would email me tomorrow, with what he has 'arranged' today, so as soon as it arrives, i will post it here for your perusal.

 

thanks again, have a great day

be safe

nige :)

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Jacobs made an error once of giving me their bank details so i started paying directly into their bank account - before I lost my rag with them and sent them that letter that is - therefore not having to pay the extra £2 and knowing that I was peeing them off cos there was nothing they could do about it as long as I was paying them.

 

They even phoned me and tried to tell me that paying direct into their bank account would mean my account would not decrease as they bank deletes reference numbers so they don't know whos account is was supposed to go to.....

 

Yeah pinch of salt I took that with too.

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UPDATE - Just received a email off the council, regarding the phone coversation we had yesterday.

 

Dear Mr JGG

 

Further to our conversation yesterday, I can confirm that Jacob's bailiffs have only added one set of £42.50 costs to the debt that they are collecting on our behalf.

 

I have also advised them, that since your account was passed to them on the 22 July 2009, that you have paid £250.00. They have informed me that they have updated their records accordingly.

 

In regards to the outstanding debt I have confirmed with the bailiff that this is now £1725.30. This is made up as follows:

 

2008 2009

Original debt issued to bailiff: 849.84 1082.96

Payments: 250.00 0

Bailiff costs: 42.50 0

 

Outstanding balance 642.34 1082.96

 

 

As agreed, you should now contact ***** ***** directly to agree suitable payments and prevent further proceedings and costs.

 

Yours sincerely,

xxxxxxx

 

 

xxxxxxxxxx

Senior Council Tax Officer

Council Tax Team

 

 

But this still doesnt take into account, the difference regarding what I have wrote down on the forms, they gave to me, and what they claim they have added as fees..

 

2008's notice states wanting £1042.34 - difference of £192.50

2009's notice states wanting £1234.96 (inc costs). - Difference of £156.00

 

I cannot wait to see the statement of fees from Jacobs. I really do feel as if this could / should go further. If it wasnt for CAG, then myself, as well as many others would of blindly paid what ever was being asked for no questions..

 

Any comments?.. ps i sent the email you quoted andie, waiting to hear back off them now.

 

I will let you know what the statement comes back with..

 

thanks once again for your help and assistance.

 

be safe

JGG :)

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scan and send to the council the letter you have had from this individual bailiff and ask them to comment

 

and i will tell you the reply from the bailiffs the council will get when they question it

these are fees that could be charged if further enforcement action takes place

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Ok JGG - lets get the council moving then

 

Ammend to suit and if I have any of the details wrong feel free to ammend

 

 

Dear INSERT SENIOR COUNCIL TAX OFFICER NAME

CC HEAD OF COUNCIL

 

 

I note with interest your email recieved today with a breakdown of the amounts of council tax outstanding on council tax years 08/09 and 09/10.

 

What worries me greatly is I have been given a different set of amounts by INSERT BAILIFF NAME that was acting on behalf of Jacobs Bailiffs.

 

INSERT BAILIFF NAME quoted that 08/09 liability is £1042.34 and I have attached a copy of the notice he gave me to substantiate this. I would like you to explain how Jacobs and INSERT BAILIFF NAME have demanded such an amount.

Taking into account £42.50 that you confirm they have added to the account and £250 payments that have been made to this account, that still leaves an overcharge of £192.50.

 

You also confirmed in your email that 09/10 stands at £1082.96 however enlocsed again is a notice from Jacobs Bailiffs and INSERT BAILIFF NAME demanding payment of £1234.96 - a difference of £156.00

 

This I believe is illegal, Jacobs Bailiffs and/or INSERTS BAILIFF NAME(S) have demanded £244.50 more than they are entitled to and as Jacobs and INSERT BAILIFF NAME are acting as your agents you are responsible for their actions whilst conducting council business.

 

This I feel is a complete shambles, how can you allow a company to act as your agent and seemingly try and profit by misleading people.

 

I intend to file a complaint with the Office of Fair Trading, a copy of which will be forwarded to you on completion for your records, regarding the fact that despite both yourselves and Jacobs being aware of my vulnerable party status in being disabled they are continuing to harrass me despite the fact I am making regular payments towards this debt.

 

A council that allows this to happen to one of its disabled citizens is I believe seriously flawed.

 

I will now assess whether to file a form 4 complaint with the court with which INSERT BAILIFFS NAME(S) are registered due to their demanding of monies they are not legally entitled to.

 

I realise I have a legal obligation to pay these outstanding arrears and have been doing so on a regular basis since INSERT DATE, I am commited to paying these arrears and will continue to make payments of £x per month direct to yourselves via your online payment system, this payment will be paid each month on the INSERT DAY YOU WILL PAY.

 

I am sure you will share my concerns about these demands for overpayment and will ensure that this does not happen in the future by allowing me to satisfy my obligation directly to yourselves. I do not believe there is any legal provision that says I cannot pay this money directly to yourselves.

 

I will satisfy the fees that Jacobs have placed on the account that you have confirmed to be a total of £42.50.

 

I ask that you confirm in writing the receipt of this letter and investigate this matter as an urgent priority.

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Thanks again guys..

 

Had another interesting chat with our friend from the council earlier.

 

Basically, even though im classed as a vunerable person, they WILL NOT be taking the account back. It's with the bailifs full stop!.

 

I HAVE to pay Jacobs, if I dont, then further charges WILL be put onto the account.

 

When pushed to ask what these further charges would be, and why, as I would not give access to the bailiffs, he couldnt tell me, only they will continue to add fees onto the account. I said that these fees would be unlawful, due to the fact that they can only charge a statutory fee of £42.50, both 1st and 2nd visit fee.

 

I mentioned about the OFT and being disabled, he said, that particular guidance is no longer in force, and the laws have changed.. I'll have ot look into that one.

 

He told me that he has been in touch with jacobs, and I have to contact the bailiff direct. I mentioned that I would not be dealing or speaking to that particular bailiff again, due to his rudeness, and abrupt manner.

 

Well have you tried ringing the office then?

 

Yes, and was told I have to speak to the bailiff direct.

 

What if I ring the bailiffs, and get a contact name for you to speak direct to them?

 

Thanks for the offer, but I have no intention of speaking to Jacobs again. I have been paying the council direct, and will continue to do so. We kept going round and round in circles, so I bid him goodbye..

 

So waiting to see re their statement of fees..

 

be safe jgg :)

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being disabled, he said, that particular guidance is no longer in force, and the laws have changed..

this is nonsense this has not changed if it had tomtubby would not still be telling people to inform the council/bailiffs that they are classed as vulnerable

did you get the blokes name e-mail him and ask to put this in writing

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God I hate council staff that act like ar**holes and that they're better than everyone else.

 

The OFT have not repealed their guidance on vulnerable parties and I would add that into a complaint you make to the OFT and state your council and his name have told you that vulnerable party status has been changed - I'm sure they would be interested to know that!!

 

You should still send the letter above - copy it to the Head of the Council and just for good measure now include your MP too - It's always more amusing like in my case when my council in conservative but my MP labour - he tore a hole in them for allowing Jacobs to do what they did to me!!

 

Don't deal with Jacobs on the phone - both their supervisors are d**kheads to put it bluntly - one even told me that if I paid my debts in the first place they wouldn't have to threaten to come in my house when my disbaled son was there - what type of mother was I? - so you can see why I made it a mission to get this company.

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Hi again.. Yes I have this guys name, phone number and email details.

 

When he rang me, the 1st thing he mentioned, was the fact that I emailed him personally, he didnt like that, as 'that particular inbox is not monitored', and I am to email the revenues dept email only.. Not sure if this has a bearing on matters or not.. Prolly me nit picking..

 

I have no intention of dealing with jacobs either in person or on the phone, rest assured of that one andie. Else, if they do contact me in person or by phone, then the jo1lygrngiant, will not be so jolly.. and it is a nickname, no prizes for guessing why.. ;). But he would be hard pressed to find someone bigger both in size and stature :)

 

Our local council are are con controlled, mp is labour same as yours andie..

 

a couple of emails will be sent off shortly, 1 asking for him to put the disabled guidance part in writing.

the 2nd, is the one you have wrote andie.. that will be a corker, I simply cant thank you enough, both of you, for what you have done :)

 

have a great day

be safe

nige aka jgg :)

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just in case he cant find it you can send him this

have a google and see if you can find your councils code of conduct for enforcement of council tax

 

Ministry of justice web site information

 

NATIONAL STANDARDS FOR ENFORCEMENT AGENTS may 2002

 

 

Those who might be potentially vulnerable include:

  • the elderly;
  • people with a disability;
  • the seriously ill;
  • the recently bereaved;
  • single parent families;
  • pregnant women;
  • unemployed people; and,
  • those who have obvious difficulty in understanding, speaking or reading English

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I've jut had a look at our local council's code of conduct, and have copied and pasted it verbatim here..

 

Note there is nothing regarding the serioulsy ill, and or disabled.

(December 2007)

 

PAGES 2 – 10

 

 

  • Index
  • Introduction
  • Legislation
  • Benefit Take-up
  • The Collection Process
  • Pre-Liability Order Recovery
  • The Liability Order Hearing
  • Enforcement Agency Action

·Insolvency

 

  • Committal to Prison Proceedings
  • Other Remedies
  • Financial Hardship
  • Write Off and Write On Policy
  • Summary

 

PAGES 11 - 17

 

 

Appendices

 

 

 

  • Appendix 1 - Recovery Arrangements

 

 

  • Appendix 2 – Attachment of Earnings Tables

 

 

  • Appendix 3 - Valid Defences Against the issue of a Liability Order

 

 

  • Appendix 4 - Bankruptcy Procedure

 

 

  • Appendix 5 - Committal Procedure

 

 

  • Appendix 6 - Write Off Authorisations

 

 

Introduction

 

 

In June 2005 the Council replaced its in-house council tax and benefits system with the I-World system from Northgate (formerly SX3).

 

The new system has many advantages over the legacy system and will help to achieve efficiency savings in the coming years as well as improved collection rates.

 

The I-World system provides a multi-year council tax system, with an integrated benefits system, both of which are designed to improve the way we work. This is a more modern system than the one previously used and it will provide greater flexibility in the area of producing recovery documentation.

 

It will also meet the Customer Services desire to continuously improve:

·The service to customers;

·Collection rates and therefore the best value performance indicator;

·The efficiencies of the service

 

The recovery process used by the service should be fair and reasonable whilst at the same time seeking to collect debts due to the Council as promptly as possible.

 

Legislation

 

 

The Local Government Finance Act 1992 is the primary legislation that introduced the Council Tax as a replacement for the Community Charge. A vast amount of secondary legislation followed in the form of statutory instruments, the most relevant being the Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement) Regulations 1992. These regulations lay down the statutory requirements for issuing a bill (demand notice), reminders, final notice and a summons.

 

Practitioners are expected to have an awareness of the contents of the Act and the relevant regulations and to keep themselves informed of any amendments. Copies of the legislation is available to view online at www.opsi.gov.uk/legislation

 

 

Benefit Take-up

 

 

Salford has a large number of customers who currently receive council tax benefit but the Government maintain that nationally significant numbers are still not claiming their full entitlement to benefits and so we are conscious of the need to continue to encourage take up wherever possible. In 2007/8 this will be aided for the first time by two vehicles acquired to provide a mobile advice and benefits service across the City. One of these vehicles has been purchased with the assistance of the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and in collaboration with the other benefits services across Greater Manchester. The other vehicle has been purchased with the assistance of link age funding.

 

Some of the perceived barriers to claiming council tax benefit are understood to be: -

 

 

  • Lack of knowledge of the availability of council tax benefit;
  • Stigma associated with claiming benefits;
  • Difficulties in accessing the service;
  • An unwillingness to complete lengthy application forms;
  • A lack of understanding of the requirements to make complete applications at the right time.

 

Whilst Salford has an excellent record in promoting take-up of benefits we will continue to encourage take-up at all stages in the recovery process, where it is appropriate to do so.

 

 

 

 

The Collection Process

 

 

The majority of our customers make payment on time with little or no contact with the service from one year to the next. Those that default in payment can expect a robust series of recovery processes which follow on swiftly once the default occurs and in many cases these customers will make contact with the council to discuss the matter. The majority of these contacts are now made by telephone and are handled by our Contact Centre located at Orbit House, Eccles. Customers can also have face to face contact at one of our 22 advice outlets located across the city. Customers can also contact us electronically and there are also self service options available regarding council tax matters.

The remainder of the paper outlines the measures used to obtain payment where default occurs and where special action is needed to recover debt.

 

This strategy document is also a code of practice and is intended to provide our staff with some general guidance as to the action they should take. However, it is acknowledged that each case should be considered on its individual merits.

 

Demand Notice (Bill)

 

 

A vital document in the collection process, the bill must be issued in accordance with the relevant regulations. Failure to issue a correct bill will prevent recovery action being taken to recover the debt.

 

The timely gathering and processing of the information needed to produce a bill will mean customers are not faced with fewer and therefore larger instalments than would normally be the case. All opportunities should be taken to encourage customers to make payment by direct debit, the preferred payment method for council tax.

 

Where a customer receives a bill but is waiting for a claim for discount, exemption, disabled relief or council tax benefit to be determined they should be advised to: -

 

Pay in accordance with the instalments demanded (if they are able) and any 'overpayment' will be offset once the amended bill is issued; or

 

Pay an estimated instalment that is agreed for them until such time as the amended bill is issued or until such time they are advised they do not qualify for council tax benefit or a discount etc.

 

Where a new arrangement is made with the customer, this must be recorded on the customer account and the appropriate notes made. Agreed changes to dates instalments are due must also be recorded on the customer account.

 

Reminder Notice

 

 

Where the customer receives a reminder notice and has contacted the Council to advise they are unable to bring their account up to date within 14 days our representative will consider the following factors before agreeing to any changes to instalments:-

 

·The reason(s) for non payment or late payment - if customer wishes to change the date the instalment due –this can be agreed dates available are 1st 5th 15th and 25th of the month.

·Eligibility for exemptions, discounts, relief's and council tax benefit

·The 'history' of the council tax account, i.e. do they have arrears from previous years on this or for a previous address;

·The customer's income, expenditure and ability to pay.

·Where the customer has a severe debt problem they can be signposted to debt advice agencies such as Welfare Rights and Citizens Advice Bureaus.

 

If no arrangement is agreed then the customer should be advised that their conversation has been noted but further recovery action may follow which may be in the form of for example, a summons being issued, debt recovery agencies, enforcement agencies being passed the debt. Costs will also be added to the account at various stages.

 

Customers can be sent a first and second reminder notice, if they have failed to make payments to their accounts by the due date. If payment of the reminder amount is not received within 14 days a Summons may be served.

 

Final Notice

 

 

Once a Final Notice has been served the 'right' to pay by instalments is lost and the full outstanding amount for the year is technically due. Providing the amount is paid in full and credited to the account the day before the summons hearing no further recovery action will be taken. Initially customers should be advised this.

 

For the small number of customers who cannot pay their account in full because of financial hardship – payment by instalments may be reinstated if they bring their account up to date and elect to pay the remainder by instalments by direct debit if they have a bank account – a direct debit agreement should be taken from the customer in these cases.

Details of income and employment should also be recorded to assist future recovery if the customer defaults. Where no payment is received within seven days a summons may be served. A debt collection agency may also be used to collect the debt prior to a summons being issued.

 

 

Summons

 

 

If following the issue of a reminder notice or final notice the amounts demanded have not been paid then the next stage would be to request the Magistrates’ to issue a summons for the customer to attend court to explain why payment has not been made. Customers sometimes contact the council to explain their reasons prior to the court date, any information given will be considered by the council tax team on an individual basis and appropriate steps taken.

 

Special Arrangements made on summons cases

 

 

Any special arrangement made following the issue of a summons should include the court costs that will become due at the hearing unless, payment in full is credited to the account by the day before the hearing date. After the hearing costs will be added to the account. Any special arrangements made on or after the hearing date will include costs.

 

Any arrangements accepted should be subject to the customer confirming his/her employment pay and income details, which they are under a duty to provide once a liability order has been granted.

 

With this information reference may be made to the amount of deduction possible if an attachment of earnings order or an attachment of benefit order were made in accordance with the current levels in place at that time. This may be a useful guide when negotiating payment plans.

 

If an arrangement made at this stage is not kept by the customer the income and employment details previously taken will enable an attachment of earnings/benefit order to be made as opposed to passing the liability order to the enforcement agency.

 

 

A guide to the arrangements that can be made at every stage of recovery is available at Appendix 1.

 

The Liability Order Hearing

 

 

At the hearing the Council will provide evidence under oath to the court in respect of the setting of the tax for the financial year; the local valuation list, the service of council tax documents, and that the Council Tax (including costs) remains unpaid. Once a summons has been served any costs incurred will become due from the date of the liability order hearing.

 

 

At this stage any customer appearing on the court list will have been served with a number of notices.

These include:

 

Demand Notice (Bill);

 

Reminder Notice(s) and/or Final Notice;

 

Summons.

 

Whilst each customer has the right to attend the hearing in accordance with Article 6 (right to a fair trial) of the Human Rights Act 1998 the courts have determined that only a limited number of 'valid defences' have been accepted by the courts.

 

Where Council Tax Benefit has been claimed but not yet determined, it is not considered to be a valid defence (See Appendix 3), however, it be reasonable to consider the reasons why the benefit claim was outstanding before continuing action.

 

Wherever possible customer queries should be dealt with prior to the hearing although it may be necessary to follow up some cases afterwards.

 

 

 

 

 

Notice of Liability Order

 

 

Following the granting of a liability order each customer will be served with the following documents:

 

Notice of liability order;

 

Request for financial information;

 

Enforcement and other recovery action warning notification;

 

The notice liability order advises the customer of the fact the magistrates' granted a liability order against them together with an order for costs

 

 

The request for financial information is a form that the customer is required to complete and return giving details of employer and net income. Failure to comply with the request may lead to the imposition of a fine in accordance with regulation 55 of the Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement) Regulations 1992.

 

The enforcement warning notification informs the customer that they are on notice that should they fail to make payment in full or as arranged within the next fourteen days the account may be passed to a certificated enforcement officer. A copy of Schedule 5 enforcement fees and charges is enclosed with the notice.

 

 

Enforcement Agency Action

 

 

Enforcement action is only used as a last resort. However, on occasions the use of a certificated Enforcement Agent to collect council tax is a remedy that unfortunately is necessary. The Enforcement Agency will liaise direct with the council tax team if they have a customer query. If a customer account has been passed to the Enforcement Agency the customer should be advised to make arrangements via the Enforcement Agency.

 

It should be remembered that prior to issuing a liability order to the enforcement agency a number of notices will have been issued to the customer. Where information is available other methods, such as the making of an attachment of earnings order or deductions from prescribed benefits will be considered first.

 

Attachments of Earnings Order

When we have obtained a liability order we can do an attachment of earnings.

This is when we send an order to the debtor’s employer and ask for money to be deducted from the debtor’s wages and sent to us to pay the debt. The deductions under an attachment are made from the debtors net earnings in accordance with standard tables contained in the regulations. The deductions for year 2007/08 are shown in Appendix 2.

 

Attachments to Benefits

When we have obtained a liability order we can do an attachment to benefit if the debtor is in receipt of certain prescribed benefits. The request is issued to the Department of Work and Pensions, Pensions Service etc for consideration for a deduction to be applied. The weekly recovery rate is an amount set by council tax regulations and the amount can change from year to year.

 

Code of Conduct

 

 

The council employs Enforcement Agencies under a contract negotiated by the Greater Manchester Revenues and Benefits consortium. The companies currently used are Equita, Jacobs and Rossendales, companies may be added or deleted under the terms of the existing or any new contract. The Enforcement Agents are contracted to for example carry photographic evidence of their identity at all times together with his/her County Court certificate. The Enforcement Agents must make clear the purpose of the visit and the fact that he/she is acting on behalf of the Council.

 

Of the cases referred to Enforcement Agents very few result in goods being removed and sold at auction. Where the next stage is for the removal of goods the Enforcement Agent will exercise their professional judgement and refer back to the Council any cases where it may be considered inappropriate to proceed.

 

Such cases may be where the customer:-

 

·Appears to be over 70 years of age and confused;

 

·Appears to be severely physically or mentally impaired;

 

·Is responsible for young children and appears to be suffering from severe financial hardship;

 

·Is in mourning due to a recent bereavement (within two months);

 

·Is having difficulty communicating due to disability or language barriers;

 

Where the Enforcement Agent considers that it is appropriate to remove goods permission will be sought from a senior officer on the council tax team. If the customer may be eligible for discount, exemption, relief, council tax benefit or some other benefits the Enforcement Agent will advise the customer to contact the Council and/or the DWP.

 

 

Complaints

 

 

The council will treat the complaint in accordance with its corporate complaints policy.

 

Any complaints concerning the actions of the Enforcement Agencies should be initially referred to the appropriate Enforcement Agency for them to deal with under the terms of the contract with the council.

 

 

Insolvency

 

 

Where a liability order has been made and the debt outstanding exceeds £750.00 insolvency proceedings may be commenced against the customer in accordance with the Insolvency Act 1986 as amended.

 

These proceedings may be either bankruptcy proceedings against an individual or winding up proceedings against a limited company.

 

Before commencing such proceedings the following factors should be considered;

 

·Whether the customer owns property;

 

·If there is any equity in the property;

 

·The reason(s) for non payment of the council tax;

 

·The potential impact on any dependents also resident;

 

·Whether other remedies have been attempted

 

·The cost effectiveness of commencing such proceedings

 

A flow diagram to show the bankruptcy procedures is shown at Appendix 4

 

Committal to Prison Proceedings

 

 

Once committal proceedings have started it is for the magistrates to decide what action should be taken. This may include: -

 

·A suspended committal order on the basis of payment by instalments;

 

·Reduce or remit part or all of the debt based upon evidence provided on oath;

 

·Make a committal order for up to three months.

 

If the customer fails to attend the hearing the court are unable to determine if non-payment is down to 'wilful refusal or culpable neglect' and so they will usually issue a warrant for the customer to be brought before the court.

 

The issue of and execution of a warrant can prove costly, the customer will be liable for any costs incurred in obtaining and executing the warrant.

 

Appendix 5 shows the stages of committal proceedings.

 

Other Remedies

 

 

A number of other enforcement remedies are available such as: -

 

·Charging Order - an application for a Charging Order may be made to the County Court where the aggregate of debt outstanding exceeds £1,000;

 

 

·Attachment of Members Allowances - Where the customer is an elected member of a public authority, an attachment of member's allowances may be made

 

Wherever possible the council tax team will consider the most appropriate and cost effective enforcement remedy in each case, this is usually to enter into an agreed payment plan. Enforcement Agencies may also be appointed to carry out other enforcement activities to assist council tax recovery.

 

Financial Hardship

 

 

There will be a number of cases each year where it is clear that the customer is facing severe financial hardship and is in need of advice and assistance. In such cases our officers will signpost the Welfare Rights Service and Citizens Advice Bureau. We will also make use of the Corporate Debt Policy. Cases taken under the Corporate Debt Policy will not be subject to further recovery action provided the customer makes payment in accordance with any arrangement made under the policy.

 

Irrecoverable Debts

 

 

There will be occasions where debt due to the council is irrecoverable for a variety of reasons the write off strategy confirms details of actions required for write off to be approved.

 

 

Write Off Policy

The objective of the write off policy is to ensure that all reasonable steps are taken to recover Council Tax debt before considering write-off.

An effective write off policy is essential to good recovery. It ensures bad debt is identified quickly and allows resources to be concentrated where most productive.

 

The main reasons for write off are

§Absconded

§Deceased

§Bankruptcy

§Statute barred

§Remittal

§Uneconomic to pursue recovery

§Other

 

Outlined below is a brief explanation of each type of write off and the steps taken to ensure recovery has been maximised.

 

Absconded

 

 

These are cases where the debtor has vacated but failed to provide the council with a forwarding address.There are generally 4 types of absconder.

 

1. The careless abscond -

 

The person who moves and forgets to tell the Council their new address.

 

2. The pre-meditated abscond -

 

The person who moves and deliberately does not tell the Council their new address. This person will often have multiple debts and moved to avoid their creditors.

 

3. The criminal abscond -

 

The person who uses an address with the sole intention of purchasing goods or services on credit for which they have no intention of paying.

 

4. The not absconded –

The person who is still living at a property but is returning mail marked “gone away”.

 

The tracing of a debtor is expensive and does not guarantee any income. As such the costs involved and resources used should be considered at every point in the tracing process.

 

Experience has shown if a debtor vacates a property and we are unable to trace their new address immediately if we recheck again after 2 months we are more likely to find them. A report will be produced on a regular basis that shows all cases coded to abscond where the account was closed in excess of 2 months ago. These cases will be checked again. Tracing methods will be used such as checking available council records Experian and LoCTA to try to locate absconders.

 

If the write off is recommended itwill be included in the quarterly write off submitted to Members and if approved and the debt will be written off.

 

 

Deceased

These are cases where the debtor has died leaving an amount owing on their Council Tax account. Council Tax debt is joint and several, therefore if there is a surviving charge payer they will be pursued for the debt. If the deceased party is the only charge payer the estate will be billed, but if there is no estate we have no alternative but to write the debt off. This generally results in a large volume of small debts that need to be written off. For debts in excess of £1000, a request for write off must be completed by the council tax officer and passed for authorisation by an appropriate member of staff.

 

If the write off is recommended itwill be included in the quarterly write off submitted to Members and if approved and the debt will be written off.

 

Insolvency

 

 

The law surrounding bankruptcy is outlined in the Insolvency Act 1986 & 2000 and was amended by the Enterprise Act 2000. Insolvency law is complex and varies dependant on whether the debtor is a company or an individual, if the bankruptcy is voluntary or compulsory and the amount of assets.

Most companies and individuals will seek to avoid bankruptcy due to the restrictions placed on their financial and business dealings after the order. An insolvency practitioner is appointed to deal with bankruptcy and it is they who inform the creditors of the details of the order

The majority of Council Tax debtors do not have assets hence when notification is received the account is terminated and amended to reflect the order. If the debtor has no assets the debt is written off however if at a later date assets are traced and payment received the write off is reversed and the money accepted. Any amounts written off due to insolvency will be included in the quarterly write off report sent for Member approval.

 

IVAs (Individual voluntary Arrangements) CVA’s (Company Voluntary Arrangements) & Administration Orders

 

 

These are alternative courses of action available to an individual or in the case of a CVA a company suffering from financial difficulties but wishing to avoid bankruptcy.

 

An IVA is a formal agreement madebetween a debtor and their creditors about how the debts will be repaid. Due to its formal nature, an IVA has to be set up and administered by a licensed insolvency practitioner. It involves the debtor making a repayment offer to all creditors. The repayment offer can be for part of the debt or for the full amount. If creditors holding at least 75% of the total debts agree to the offer, the arrangement is approved. The insolvency practitioner then manages the arrangement until the payments agreed have been made. If the debtor fails to keep to the agreement made in the order any of his creditors can subsequently petition for bankruptcy. Due to part repayment IVAs there will be write off’s which cannot be avoided. These write offs will be included in the bankruptcy figure and will have been approved by an appropriate council tax officer on an individual basis.

 

A CVA is similar to an IVA but for a company rather than an individual. An Administration order is an order granted by the County Court which enables the debtor to make a percentage repayment on their total debt and is very similar to an IVA. These write offs will be included in the bankruptcy figure and will have been approved by an appropriate council tax officer on an individual basis

 

 

Statute Barred

 

 

 

Regulation 34 of the Council Tax (Administration & Enforcement) Regulations (SI 613/1992) imposes the constraint that if the council has failed to obtain a Liability Order by a date that is more than six years after the council tax first became due than the debt cannot be pursued through the Magistrates courts. This does not mean that we cannot make a voluntary arrangement with the customer.

 

 

The Limitations Act 1980 states:-

Time limit for sums recoverable by statute

(1)An action to recover any sum recoverable by virtue of any enactment shall not be brought after the expiration of six years from the date on which the cause of action accrued.”

 

This statute can be interpreted to mean if the council have failed to take any recovery action for a period of 6 years or more since last contact with the customer then the debt becomes “statute barred” and again the council is unable to pursue the debt through the courts. However a voluntary arrangement can still be requested.

 

These cases seldom occur and any such debts the council will attempt to recover (if economic) by requesting payment however if the debtor refuses we have very little alternative but to write the debt off. If we have a statute barred debt that we are unable to recover a request for write off will be completed by a council tax officer and passed to an appropriate officer to approve. Any recommended write off’s will be included in the quarterly write off request submitted to Members and if approved the debt will be written off.

 

Remitted by the Magistrates

 

 

Salford City Council has the power to apply to a magistrate for a warrant to commit a debtor to prison due to unpaid Council Tax .Where the Magistrates feel it is appropriate, taking into account the circumstances of the debtor, they may remit (write off) all or part of the debt. In these instances the Magistrates will sign a declaration showing the amount to be remitted. These figures will be included in the quarterly write off report submitted to Members.

 

Uneconomical Amounts

 

 

Collecting debt can be an expensive process and in some cases the cost of recovery action makes pursuit of the debt uneconomical.

The point at which recovery becomes uneconomical is dependant on many factors such as ability of the debtor to pay, recovery methods available and costs involved.

Guidance has been provided to staff regarding action to be taken on these types of accounts.

If the debt is to be considered as uneconomical to recover a request must be completed by the council tax officer and passed to an appropriate officer to approve. Recommended write offs will be included in the quarterly requests issued to Members for write off approval.

 

 

Other

 

There are always occasions when a debt may be written off for a reason other than those listed above. These cases are few and far between however they do exist hence this category has been included.

If the debt is to be considered for write off using this reason it must be approved by the Council Tax Manager or Assistant Manager.

 

 

Write-off and Write -on Procedure

 

 

A report will be prepared on a generally quarterly basis for members to consider write offs. The report will include an analysis of the reason for write offs and write ons. Appendix 6 indicates authorisation levels for council tax staff to refer a council tax account for write off consideration.

 

Summary

 

 

To conclude it is important to consider the balance between recovering debts due to the council as effectively and efficiently as possible with the need to be fair and reasonable to the customer and council tax payers as a whole.

The council has a duty to collect council tax and a consistent approach is necessary in order to be fair to the citizens of Salford. It is therefore recommended that Members approve the council tax enforcement and write off strategy.

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Such cases may be where the customer:-

 

·Appears to be over 70 years of age and confused;

 

·Appears to be severely physically or mentally impaired;

 

·Is responsible for young children and appears to be suffering from severe financial hardship;

 

·Is in mourning due to a recent bereavement (within two months);

 

·Is having difficulty communicating due to disability or language barriers;

Hmmmmm so you are not vulnerable because you can tell them of your disablity but if you cannot communicate it they will know and magically class you as vulnerable!

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yep, it certainly looks that way. with my disability being my back is shot, and i can walk, although with a heavy limp, very slowly, and without crutches etc, its not as if they can see whats wrong with me...

 

I will find something else tomorrow, where I can have another pop at them ;)

 

im calling it a night here.. been a long day, and another real long one tomorrow.

 

thanks again andie. have a good night. see you soon.

 

be safe nige :)

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Hi again, following advice from both Hallow, and Andie, I have put together this email. Any suggestions before I send it off?

 

FAO Mr xxxxxx

 

Re Council tax account number xxxxxx. Years 2008/9 and 2009/10

 

I note with interest your email received today with a breakdown of the amounts of council tax outstanding on council tax years 08/09 and 09/10.

 

What worries me greatly is I have been given a different set of amounts by Mr Bailiff that was acting on behalf of Jacobs Bailiffs.

Mt Bailiff quoted that 08/09 liability is £1042.34 and I will send a copy of the notice he gave me to substantiate this. If so requested by yourself. I would like you to explain how Jacobs and Mr Bailiff have demanded such an amount.

Taking into account £42.50 that you confirm they have added to the account and £250 payments that have been made to this account, that still leaves an overcharge of £192.50.

 

You also confirmed in your email that 09/10 stands at £1082.96 however I will send a copy of the notice he gave me to substantiate this. If so requested by yourself, from Jacobs Bailiffs and Mr Bailiff demanding payment of £1234.96 - a difference of £156.00

 

This I believe is illegal, Jacobs Bailiffs and/or Mr Bailiff have demanded £348.50 more than they are entitled to and as Jacobs and Mr Bailiff are acting as your agents you are responsible for their actions whilst conducting council business.

 

This I feel is a complete shambles, how can you allow a company to act as your agent and seemingly try and profit by misleading people.

 

I intend to file a complaint with the Office of Fair Trading, a copy of which will be forwarded to you on completion for your records, regarding the fact that despite both yourselves and Jacobs being aware of my vulnerable party status in being disabled they are continuing to harass me despite the fact I am making regular payments towards this debt.

 

A council that allows this to happen to one of its disabled citizens is I believe seriously flawed.

 

I will now assess whether to file a form 4 complaint with the court with which Mr Bailiff is registered due to their demanding of monies they are not legally entitled to.

 

I realise I have a legal obligation to pay these outstanding arrears and have been doing so on a regular basis since 27th August, I am committed to paying these arrears and will continue to make payments of £150 per month direct to yourselves via your online payment system, this payment will be paid each month on the 28th of each calendar month.

 

I am sure you will share my concerns about these demands for overpayment and will ensure that this does not happen in the future by allowing me to satisfy my obligation directly to yourselves. I do not believe there is any legal provision that says I cannot pay this money directly to yourselves, which I have been doing, with the online payment system, and will continue to do until such time as the debt is cleared.

 

The complaint to the Office of Fair Trading, will comprise of but not limited to the following points raised, in conversations, both with Mr Bailiff, but also yourself.

 

False representation of authority and/or legal position

2.4(b). falsely implying or stating that action can or will be taken when it legally cannot, for example, referring to bankruptcy or sequestration proceedings when the balance is too low to qualify for such proceedings or claiming a right of entry when no court order to this effect has been granted.

 

Physical/psychological harassment

.

2.6 (g). making threatening statements or gestures or taking actions which suggest harm to debtors

 

2.8 (i). failing to investigate and/or provide details as appropriate, when a debt is queried or disputed, possibly resulting in debtors being wrongly pursued

2.8 (k). not ceasing collection activity whilst investigating a reasonably queried or disputed debt.

 

Charging for debt collection

 

2.10 (a) claiming collection costs from a debtor in the absence of express contractual or other legal provision

 

b. misleading debtors into believing they are legally liable to pay collection charges when this is not the case, for example, when there is no contractual provision

 

c. not giving an indication in credit agreements of the amount of any charges payable on default

 

d. applying unreasonable charges, for example, charges not based on actual and necessary costs

 

e. applying charges which are disproportionate to the main debt.

 

Debt collection visits

 

2.11 Those visiting debtors must not act in an unclear or threatening manner.

 

2.12 Examples of unfair practices are:

 

a. not making the purpose of any proposed visit clear, for example, merely stating that collectors or field agents will call is not sufficient

 

b. visiting a debtor when it is known they are vulnerable, for example, when a doctor's certificate has been provided stating that the debtor is ill

 

c. continuing with a visit when it becomes apparent that the debtor is distressed or otherwise vulnerable, for example, it becomes apparent that the debtor has mental health problems

 

f. visiting or threatening to visit debtors without prior agreement when the debt is deadlocked or disputed1

 

g. not giving adequate notice of the time and date of a visit2

 

Also in our telephone conversation of yesterday, you claimed that the guidance of being disabled is no longer in force. Can I suggest that you have a look at the Ministry of Justice website, under the National Standards For Enforcement Agents of May 2002, which states

 

Those who might be potentially vulnerable include:

 

  • the elderly;
  • people with a disability;
  • the seriously ill;
  • the recently bereaved;
  • single parent families;
  • pregnant women;
  • unemployed people; and,
  • those who have obvious difficulty in understanding, speaking or reading English

Therefore under these conditions, and of those of the OFT, I am fully classed as a venerable person, and request once again that the account is taken back off Jacobs Bailiffs.

 

I will satisfy the fees that Jacobs have placed on the account that you have confirmed to be a total of £42.50. These fees will be paid, as soon as the debt is cleared for both years council tax.

 

A cheque will be issued to Jacobs. No other form of payment will be offered to Jacobs.

 

I ask that you do not contact me by telephone again, and all further correspondence be sent either via electronic mail, or by Royal Mail. I also request that you confirm in writing the receipt of this letter and investigate this matter as an urgent priority.

 

Yours Sincerely

 

JGG

 

 

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