If you ignore letters from us or break an arrangement to pay after receiving a court summons or liability order we may pass your account to an enforcement agent.
A Liability Order allows the council to pass your account to an enforcement agent for collection.
Once we have passed your account to an Enforcement Agent, they will contact you. If you have any questions, you should contact the Enforcement Agent direct.
The Liability Order allows an Enforcement Agent to remove goods from your property so they can sell them and use the money to pay the Council Tax you owe. In practice, this will only happen in extreme cases, as the Enforcement Agent would rather collect payment from you. After we have passed your account to the Enforcement Agent, they will add fees to your account to cover their expenses. For further information concerning fees charged please see below:
Enforcement agents will carry written authorisation from the council, which you can ask to see. The enforcement agent will try to obtain full payment from you, including fees.
If you cannot make full payment, they can take possession of your goods with a value of up to the amount owed. This is known as “taking control of goods”.
There are three options for the enforcement agents if you do not pay in full:
- The enforcement agents lets the goods stay in your property, providing you make an arrangement to pay, or until the goods can be removed. If you do not keep up the payments, the enforcement agents will return and remove the goods.
- The enforcement agents stays with the goods until payment is made, or until the goods can be removed.
- The enforcement agent actually removes goods from the property. Once removed, goods are sold at public auction to pay the council tax that is owed.
Usually, goods sold at auction will not equal the amount of money you may have paid for them.
There will be additional costs involved with this process including the costs of removal, storage and the auctioneer’s fees.
What an enforcement agent can take
Enforcement agents may remove goods belonging to the person named on the liability order including goods they part own.
They cannot remove certain goods. These include:
- Fixtures and fittings
- Tools, books, vehicles and other equipment that is necessary for your personal use for work
- Food, clothes, bedding, furniture and household equipment that is necessary to meet basic needs of you and your family
- Any item or equipment reasonably required for the medical care of the debtor or of the debtor's household or the safety or security of the dwelling house
- Sufficient lamps or stoves or other appliances designed to provide lighting or heating facilities, to satisfy the basic heating and lighting needs of the debtor's household
- Any item or equipment reasonably required for the care of a person under the age of 18 ,a disabled person or an older person
- Assistance dogs,sheep dogs,guard dogs or domestic pets
- A vehicle on which a valid disabled person`s badge is displayed because it is used for the carriage of a disabled person
- A vehicle used for police, fire or ambulance purposes
Enforcement agents may take control of ‘tools of the trade’ with a value in excess of £1,350.00.
There is a time limit of 12 months for taking control of goods but if a payment arrangement is entered into the 12 month period stops.
A full 12 month period re-starts if the pay arrangement defaults.
If the enforcement agent is unable to recover sufficient goods.
If the enforcement agent is unable to recover sufficient goods to cover the amount owed, or if they cannot gain entry to the property, they will tell us.
The council will then have no choice but to take another course of action such as:
- Making an attachment to your benefits or earnings.
- Place a charge on your property – If this is done, the council can force you to sell your property and pay off the council tax debt plus interest out of any money left after the mortgage has been repaid.
- Apply to make you bankrupt.
- Apply to the magistrates’ court for your committal to prison.
If you are not in when the enforcement agent calls
If you are not in when the enforcement agent calls, they will leave their contact details. You should either pay in full including the costs or contact the enforcement agent to arrange payment.
Please note should the enforcement agent visit your premises you will incur a further fee of at least £235.00
Enforcement agents may visit premises on any day of the week including Sunday but only between the hours of 6.00am and 9.00 pm.
Enforcement agent fees
Enforcement agent are entitled to charge fees, in addition to the unpaid council tax. The fees will depend on the actions an enforcement agent is forced to take in order to recover the outstanding sum.
In April 2014, a new fee structure was introduced with a fee payable as soon as each of the three stage process begins:
- Compliance stage: £75.00 charged as soon as the case is passed from the Local Authority to the Enforcement Agent. The charge is payable on each Liability Order.
- Enforcement stage: £235.00 plus 7.5% of the value of the debt that exceeds £1,500. The fee of £235.00 is payable upon first attendance at the premises. Only one enforcement fee maybe charged even if there are multiple Liability Orders.
- Salestage: £110.00 plus 7.5% of the value of the debt that exceeds £1,500. The fee is payable upon first attendance at the premises to remove the goods or prepare for sale.
- Enforcement agents may also recover disbursement fees that are reasonably and actually incurred such as the cost of storage of goods removed and locksmiths fees.
- The level of the fees is set by the Government and will be reviewed annually.
Please note the compliance fee is payable before the arrears and the other fees are payable on a pro rata basis.
Complaints about the enforcement agent
We monitor Enforcement Agents performance on a continual basis, to ensure the Enforcement Agent is working within the terms and conditions of our contract and following the national standards code of practice for Enforcement Agents (CIVEA) in accordance with The Taking Control of Goods Regulations 2013.
CIVEA is an independently funded association formed to represent all Enforcement agents in England and Wales further information can be viewed at the CIVEA website.
If you think a Enforcement Agent has done anything wrong, you should initially complain in writing to the Enforcement Agents concerned. Each of the Enforcement Agent firms used by the council has a complaints department. If you remain unhappy at the response to your complaint from the Enforcement Agent please forward details of your complaint to the council.
Enforcement Agents we use
Bailiff Law from 6 April 2014
The law governing bailiffs changed on 6 April 2014. The Tribunals Courts and Enforcement Act 2007, the Taking Control of Goods Regulations 2013 and the Taking Control of Goods (Fees) Regulations 2014, mean that over 400 years of bailiff law has now changed.
The main changes:
- Bailiffs will be known as Enforcement Agents
- Enforcement Agents must follow a three stage process:
i) Compliance stage - Upon receipt of an instruction the Enforcement Agent must give the defaulter a minimum of seven clear days notice that he intends to visit their premises to take control of goods.
ii) Enforcement stage - The Enforcement Agent attends a premises to take control of goods and all associated activities prior to the removal of goods for sale.
iii)Sale stage - The Enforcement Agent attends a premises to either remove the goods for the purposes of sale, or commences preparation for sale if the sale is to be held on the premises. This stage concludes when the property is sold or disposed of.
- Levy, distress and walking possession agreements are replaced by "the process of taking control of goods" and a "controlled goods agreement"
- There is a time limit of 12 months for taking control of goods but if a payment arrangement is entered the 12 month period stops. A full 12 month period re-starts if the pay arrangement defaults
- Enforcement Agents may visit premises on any day of the week including Sunday but only between the hours of 6am and 9pm
- Enforcement Agents now have a duty to identify vulnerable persons and refer them to seek advice
- Enforcement Agents may take control of 'tools of the trade' with a value in excess of £1,350.00.
- Enforcement Agents must provide written notice to both the defaulter and any co-owner in respect of any objects which they have taken control
- It will become an offence to interfere with controlled goods or to obstruct an Enforcement Agent in the legal course of their duties.
A new fee structure
A new fee structure is introduced with a fee payable as soon as each of the three stage process begins :
i) Compliance stage - £75.00 charged as soon as the case is passed from the local Authority to the Enforcement Agent. The charge is payable on each Liability Order.
ii) Enforcement stage - £235.00 plus 7.5% of the value of the debt that exceeds £1,500. The fee of £235.00 is payable upon first attendance at the premises. Only one enforcement fee maybe charged even if there are multiple Liability Orders.
iii) Sale stage - £110.00 plus 7.5% of the value of the debt that exceeds £1,500. The fee is payable upon first attendance at the premises to remove the goods or prepare for sale.
iv) Enforcement agents may also recover disbursement fees that are reasonably and actually incurred such as the cost of storage of goods removed and locksmiths fees.
v) The level of the fees is set by the government and will be reviewed annually.
vi) The £75.00 compliance fee is payable before the balance on the liability order. The Enforcement and Sale fees are payable on a pro rata basis. All fees belong to the Enforcement Agent and should be paid to the Enforcement Agent.
Transitional arrangements will apply in respect of accounts for which bailiffs have initiated action prior to 6 April 2014. In almost all cases the account reverts to the Compliance stage, the £75.00 is not payable but existing fees already incurred are payable.
Council Tax and Business Rates: Bankruptcy process
If you owe more than £5000.00 in Council Tax or Business Rates and a Liability Order has been obtained in respect to your debts then the Council may institute bankruptcy proceedings against you.
If we take bankruptcy proceedings against you then you will receive a warning letter informing you of this course of action along with details of the consequences of this process.
If you receive a letter of this nature then it is important to immediately contact the Council and make an arrangement to pay.
If you fail to Contact the Council we will instruct our solicitors to issue you with a statutory demand- upon issue of this demand you have 21 days to make payment in full.
If you receive a statutory demand you should immediately contact our solicitors.
Upon expiry of the statutory demand a bankruptcy petition will be presented to the County Court leading to a hearing for your bankruptcy. You can still be made bankrupt even if you refuse to acknowledge or agree with the proceedings. It is therefore in your best interest to fully co-operate once bankruptcy proceedings have commenced.
Consequences of bankruptcy:
- A trustee in bankruptcy will be appointed to manage and investigate your affairs
- Your home could be sold along with any other assets of value
- Your bank accounts frozen
- You may have difficulties obtaining credit even following the discharge of your bankruptcy
- You will incur substantial legal costs
- Any assets obtained during the term of your bankruptcy will also be lost for example any inheritances or insurance pay outs.
- If you are self-employed then your business will be closed and any business assets claimed by the trustee.
- Your trustee may apply for an Income Payments Order (IPO) which will require you to make contributions towards your creditors from your income.