Prior to the 6th April 2014, bailiffs and enforcement agents were subject to far less rigorous regulations. What this meant in practice is that unscrupulous collection agencies would take advantage of debtors by doing things like turning up to seize goods unannounced, multiplying collection fees, and sometimes even seizing more property than was necessary to clear the debt.
So the government reviewed the industry, and introduced a slate of clear rules and regulations which make the process much clearer, fairer and, ultimately less open to abuse.
Prior to the new rules collection agencies were free to impose ‘collection fees’ almost at will, and these were frequently unclear and/or excessive.
The new rules stipulate that the Enforcement Agent Fees are standardised across three defined stages of enforcement.
Those key stages and their associated fees are as follows:
STAGE 1 – COMPLIANCE
This stage is seven ‘clear days’. It starts when you receive a written warning (a Notice of Enforcement) informing you that the agency intends to visit you with a view to taking control of goods. If you fail to agree an alternative payment arrangement at this stage, action will progress to the next stage.
STAGE 2 – ENFORCEMENT
If you don’t pay the debt (or agree a payment plan) in the Compliance stage, and Enforcement Agent will visit your property with a view to remove goods, or to place them under control ahead of removal at a later date. Crucially however, if the agency is enforcing more than one Liability Order or Warrant of Control against you, they can only charge this fee once.
FEE: £235 (plus 7.5% of the value of the debt that exceeds £1,500.00).
STAGE 3 – SALE
This fee is charged when the Enforcement Agent physically removes the controlled goods and makes preparations for their sale. They can also charge you for associated costs at this stage – e.g. storage or locksmith’s fees.
FEE: £110 (plus 7.5% of the value of the debt that exceeds £1,500.00).
“I would like to say I found the service to not only excellent but the helpfulness and speed it was done at was fantastic. I was also delighted with the manner in which I was kept updated with the situation and in general I couldn’t be happier with the help I received.”
Whereas previously Enforcement Agencies might often have been vague or inconsistent with the information they provide ahead of visiting you or seizing goods – unclear fees, undated letters, that sort of thing – now there is no room for confusion.
The regulations now stipulate what notifications enforcement agents must use. These notifications, and what they must detail, are as follows:
Yes. The Compliance stage is seven ‘clear days’. It starts when you receive a written warning (a Notice of Enforcement) informing you that the agency intends to visit you with a view to taking control of goods. Payment of the debt, or agreeing a payment plan at this stage will prevent further action being taken.
Yes. Regulation 12 ensures that where vulnerable debtors might have been unable to seek the relevant advice in the early stages of the process, the onus is on the bailiff to refer them for advice upon visiting them. Should a bailiff fail to give a vulnerable debtor the chance to seek advice prior to removing goods, the enforcement fee would then be deem unrecoverable.
“I would like to say a massive thank you to everybody at council tax advisors without your help and support I still wouldn’t be able to sleep at night and would be living in constant fear of a knock at the door.”
No. Under the new regulations bailiffs are obliged to leave a variety of items that are exempt from seizure. Detailed information on what is and isn’t exempt from seizure can be found here.
Whilst the regulations are clear on the fees that must be charged by the enforcement agent on all debts where some enforcement action had commenced before 6th April 2014, they are quite complicated.
Even more confusingly, different rules and fees are applied to different kinds of debts and fines. The rules do however strive to correlate different stages of enforcement action to the newly defined three stages of Compliance, Enforcement and Sale, and apply fees accordingly.
Where you have any fees relating to action carried out prior to 6th April 2014 we would recommend that you contact us to discuss whether the fees you are being asked to pay are correct.
The new regulations can be read in full here.
The best way to ensure a difficult situation doesn’t escalate into an upsetting and traumatic one is to seek impartial expert advice as soon as you receive any written notification from a bailiff – don’t ignore the letter in the hope that it will all just go away.
Our advice can help you formulate a reasonable budget and repayment plan and put you on the front foot in your response to any debt collection organisations.
And always remember that bailiffs simply want to collect the debt, and if you offer a clear and agreeable path to achieving this, they will be keen to work with you and will be just as keen as you to avoid escalating the situation.
We are more than happy to help you ensure that you receive the advice and planning guidance you need. To discuss your situation, call us now on 0300 302 1806 anytime between 8am – 8pm, Monday – Friday
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