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CAG Newsletter. Bailiff tactics !!!

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Below, you will see a copy of the July 2011 CAG Newsletter.

 

If anyone has received a bailiff visit, then the following MUST BE READ!!!!

 

 

 

Unpaid Council Tax and Non Domestic Rates and the Role of Bailiffs

 

 

We are in the grips of the worst recession that we have ever seen. Many people have lost their jobs and many more jobs are under threat. The astonishing price of fuel has meant that we are limiting the amount of driving that we do, food prices have once again increased this month and just last week, we heard that electricity prices will increase by 20% this winter. The High Streets are not immune. Woolworth’s were the first big name to go out of business at the start of the recession with well known names such as Moben Kitchens, Habitat etc closing down. Families are unable to afford a holiday and this is confirmed by the profit warning from Thomas Cook Travel. Families are really struggling financially and this is leading to many of them finding themselves in arrears with their council tax and small businesses that struggling to survive are finding themselves in the same position with non domestic rates (NNDR).

 

[EDIT]. Frankly, it is very worrying indeed the way in which bailiffs are almost routinely charging fees that are not in accordance with the legislation and the tactics that they are using in order to generate additional bailiff fees is very worrying indeed. With families (and businesses) now struggling financially, they need to be aware of the tactics being used. I have provided full details on a new Sticky on the bailiff section of CAG. A brief outline of the tactics is as follows:

 

 

Concerns at the amount initially requested by the bailiff

 

It is very rare that the debtor attends court and therefore, many people are unsure of the actual amount of the Liability Order (which will include a summons fee). When visited by a bailiff they accept the figure being demanded by him and in so many cases where enquiries are made with the local authority it is established that the amount of the Liability Order is significantly less than the amount stated by the bailiff. When challenged, the bailiff will “claim” that he is entitled to charge an “enforcement fee” (which is incorrect). It is vital that debtors contact the local authority for confirmation of the amount of the Liability Order passed to their agents.

 

Charging £42.50 to the account before an initial visit has been made.

 

This has been “industry practice” for many years. The statutory regulations provide that a bailiff can charge an initial 1st visit fee of £24.50 for “attending to levy” (where no levy was made) and for a 2nd such visit, a fee of £18.00 can be applied. Also, unless a bailiff is able to levy upon goods, he cannot charge any further fees.

 

Refusing to provide details of the charges applied to an account.

 

The statutory regulations are very clear in that they provide that “the person levying distress on behalf of a local authority must provide to the debtor a copy of Schedule 5 (the statutory fee scale) and a “memorandum setting out the appropriate amount”. Many bailiffs refuse to provide a breakdown of fees and instead, state that the debtor must write to the company for this information. This is simply dreadful. It cannot be right that the debtor should be forced to pay first....and ask questions later.

 

The charging of an “enforcement fee”.

 

The charging of an “enforcement fee” is becoming routine and is of great concern as there is no provision for such a fee in the statutory fee scale, and in reality, it is really an “attending to remove” fee which cannot be charged unless a prior levy has been made on goods.

 

Allowing a bailiff to come into your home to levy upon goods.

 

I have never said this before....but you should not allow a bailiff to come into your home.

 

If you already have financial difficulties, allowing the bailiff to come into your home will incur you in significant additional fees. This is because, once the bailiff is in your home, he will levy upon your goods and you will then be liable for both a levy fee and walking possession fee. Also, only after the bailiff has levied upon your goods, will he decided how much he will accept from you each month!!

 

Many times, the payment arrangement is set by him at a figure that is far too high and this will ensure that you default. The bailiff will then legally be allowed to charge an “attending to remove” fee to the account.

 

Insisting payments are made on a particular date each month.

 

If you call a bailiff company to make a payment arrangement on for instance; the 20th of the month, they will expect that all future payments are received in cleared funds by the same date each month and if you are just one late, this is used by all bailiff companies as an excuse to attempt to charge an “attending to remove fee”. You should always state that you will make payments by the end of each month.

 

"Levying" on a vehicle that you do not own.

 

If a bailiff is unable to come into your property he will only be able to charge a fee of £24.50 for “attending to levy”. Instead, many bailiffs will “levy” upon a car parked either outside of your home or close by. In doing so, the bailiff will then charge a levy fee and many times, an incorrect “removal fee”. This tactic is widespread and has been the subject of a critical report from the Local Government Ombudsman. There is a Sticky on this very subject on the bailiff section of CAG which has had 7,000 viewings!!

 

How much should the bailiff charge?

 

The charges that a bailiff can charge are provided for in statute law as laid down by Parliament. The relevant legislation is the Council Tax Administration and Enforcement Regulations 1992 (Si 613) and the fees are outlined in Schedule 5. I have also provided a copy as a Sticky in the bailiff section of CAG.

 

Who is responsible for the actions of the bailiff?

 

The answer to this is simple. It is the local authority.

 

It is important to be aware that the statutory regulations provide for the local authority to levy distress as soon as a liability order has been made and further, that the local authority can charge fees to the debtor as outlined in Schedule 5. Therefore, strictly speaking, the fees recovered are due to the council.

 

Some local authorities have their own in house bailiffs, but most councils contract out the levying of distress to private sector bailiff fees. As the regulations confirm, the fees are due to the council but in reality, almost all local authorities allow their agents to keep the fees for the work that the bailiff has undertaken to recover the debt.

 

In 1997, the fees that could be charged for “attending to levy” (where no levy was made) was set at just £20.00 for a 1st visit and £15.00 for a 2nd such visit. By 2003, so many councils had contracted out the levying of distress to private bailiff firms and the bailiff industry called upon the Government to substantially restructure the level of fees.

 

A Consultation Paper was issued and following responses, the government agreed to raise the fees for a 1st visit from £20.00 to £22.50 and for a 2nd such visit, from £15.00 to £16.50. A further small increase was agreed a few years ago and the current fee is now set at £24.50 for a 1st visit and £18.00 for a 2nd visit (to attend to levy).

 

The Consultation Paper also suggested that a maximum fee for a “van attendance” should be introduced but sadly, this was not implemented.

 

Both increases for a 1st and 2nd visit were minimal and in the response to the Consultation Paper the government confirmed that the reason for this was because:

 

· “The fees payable in respect of the levy of distress are intended to cover the costs incurred by the local authority in making the levy and are due to the local authority”

And that:

 

· “Whilst many contracts between local authorities and bailiff companies may “assign” the fees to the bailiff company, the fees are not, and were not intended to be, the fees of the bailiff”.

 

They also stated that the local authority cannot profit from enforcement.

 

Of utmost importance is the following comment from the 1997 Consultation Paper:

 

· “Where an authority does contract out the work to a private sector bailiff company it is important that both sides should remember that the bailiff is working on behalf of the authority. Local authorities cannot abdicate responsibility for the actions of their contractor”.

 

· “Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the local authority to ensure that the levy is carried out in a lawful manner and that the fees charged are in accordance with the regulations”

 

Furthermore; the Government reiterated that:

 

· “Fees payable in relation to the levy of distress are intended to cover the costs of the local authority and are due to the local authority. Proposals were made to change some fee levels because it was considered that they were no longer meeting the costs of the local authority. However, fees charged to a debtor should only recompense a local authority for the costs arising from that debtor. They should not be increased to allow for costs from other debtors which have not been recovered nor to allow for an element of profit”

 

 

Many debtors write to bailiff companies to complain at the level of fees charged to their account. This is wrong. In reality, they should be writing a formal Letter of Complaint to the local authority (with a copy to the bailiff company) as it is the local authority who are wholly responsible for the fees charged by their agents and furthermore, as confirmed above, they are responsible for ensuring that the levy is carried out in a lawful manner and that the fees charged are in accordance with the regulations and finally.....the local authority cannot profit from enforcement.

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Excellent information TT, I think it should be a sticky. Looks klike if the law was applied narrowly, there is no wriggle room for the bailiffs, and the fee structure does not take account of the Can't Pays, who are in dire financial straits, and the fees merely compound the problems the debtor has; but are obviously designed to penalise the Won't Pays who can afford to but choose not to pay.


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Martin will be adding it as a sticky today.

Edited by tomtubby

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style="text-align:center;"> Please note that this topic has not had any new posts for the last 2995 days.

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