The Council has been able to instruct certificated bailiffs to collect outstanding council tax where a liability order was granted in the Magistrates Court. The fees charged were laid down in legislation, Schedule 5 of The Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement) Regulations 1992, as amended and are charged at each stage of recovery. These fees could prove to be significant if the action taken escalated to a bailiff visiting your property, levying on your goods and if the goods were then removed for sale. To protect the public and to clarify the charges made for a variety of debts the Government has reviewed the bailiff’s role in the collection of debt and introduced new legislation.
The Taking Control of Goods Regulations 2013 and The Taking Control of Goods Regulations (Fees) 2014 came into effect from 6 April 2014.
Bailiffs are now known as Enforcement Agents and are required to undergo training and obtain a qualification before a certificate is issued by the Court.
The Council are able to instruct enforcement agents where a liability order has been granted in the Magistrates Court. An application for a liability order is only made once the Council has issued a bill, sent the appropriate reminder(s), in some cases a final notice and issued a summons for you to attend court.
Where a taxpayer has fallen into arrears and contacted the Council it is always our preference to put a payment arrangement in place so the arrears may be cleared within a reasonable period. Once a summons is issued, if you are able to clear the debt and court costs prior to the date of the court hearing the Council will not apply for a liability order. If a liability order is issued the Council will still agree to payment by instalments if you make contact and are able to make a reasonable arrangement. On award of a liability order, you are required under Section 36 of The Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement) Regulations 1992 to complete a form detailing your income and expenses and where possible payment arrangements are set up to clear the tax within the tax year.
If you do not make contact with the Council or adhere to a payment plan agreed then the Council will take further action and may pass your account to enforcement agents to collect. You will be notified of the charges that would be added to your account in advance. The Borough of Broxbourne uses two companies; Equita Limited and Jacobs.
The Enforcement agents will deal with the debt in three stages and the fees, set by the Government, are added at each stage.
1. Compliance stage
If your debt is passed to an enforcement agent, you will incur a fixed fee of £75. This will apply for each liability order issued to you. Any payments or offers of repayment should be made to the enforcement agents and not the Council. Debts cannot be recalled once enforcement agents are instructed.
The enforcement agents will make every effort at the Compliance stage to collect the debt. They will try to contact you by letter, telephone, e-mail or SMS messaging. They may carry out credit checks, searches such as Land Registry searches or use tracing agents to find you. If you do not pay then the enforcement agents will move the debt to the second stage.
2. Enforcement stage
If you do not pay then the enforcement agents will visit your property, possibly on more than one occasion, to collect the debt. The enforcement agent will ask you for payment of the debt in full. There is a fixed fee of £235 plus a percentage fee of 7.5% for any balance due above £1,500.
If you are unable to pay the enforcement agent and can offer some evidence then the enforcement agents will normally make a payment arrangement with you if a reasonable amount is offered. They may enter into a Controlled Goods Agreement, where the agent makes a list of your possessions that is equal in value to your debt. If your possessions are subject to a Controlled Goods Agreement you cannot dispose or sell them without the enforcement agent’s permission. If you default on any arrangement they will move to the third and final stage.
3. Sale stage
This stage commences with the first attendance at the premises by the enforcement agents for the purpose of transporting goods to the place of sale. If you do not pay as agreed and you have signed a Controlled Goods Agreement, the enforcement agent may enter your property to take the goods listed. You will be charged a further fee of £110 plus a percentage fee of 7.5% for any balance due above £1,500.
Changes in terminology under the new regulations:
(County Court Bailiffs are still referred to as such)
Taking control of goods
Controlled goods agreement