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The Collection Enforcement & Recovery of Council Tax

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  • The Collection Enforcement & Recovery of Council Tax

    The Collection Enforcement & Recovery of Council Tax

    Some frequently asked questions.

    (Q) I have received a letter from a Debt Collection Agency; I owe arrears of Council Tax (CT)
    (A) Then it is almost certain that the Bailiffs will call around to your property very shortly. Firstly do not panic but follow the ‘door-step’ code. Your biggest investment is to buy and fit a door chain to the entry doors on your property. Work on the principle that everyone that is not known to you remains on the other side of door. Let no-one through and certainly not the Bailiffs. Bailiffs are very wise and will try every trick to gain access. “My car has broken down outside and I wonder if I could just use your loo, telephone etc etc.” Once the Bailiffs have entered your property, they have a ‘right’ to do so again.

    (Q) I rather stupidly let the bailiffs into my property when I had a previous debt does that mean I have given them permission to enter my home again.
    (A) No each ‘debt’, where Bailiffs have legal authority or instructions to collect, has to be treated separately. It therefore does not give them ‘rights’ to enter again

    (Q) I have heard the expression “Can’t pay – Won’t pay”, what does it mean
    (A) When the council computer identifies you as a non-payer it has to start a process in order to collect monies due. The Council will first see you and all others as a “Won’t pay” and attend the Courts and produce the legal paperwork. It is your role to try to convince the Council that you are in difficulties and actually you are in the “Can’t pay” rather than in the “Won’t pay” section. The ‘Won’t pay’ usually find themselves heading towards prison.

    (Q) Can you tell me what happens as far as the legal paperwork is concerned?
    (A) Once you have been identified as a non-payer the council will write to you in the form of a ‘Reminder Letter’. If you fail to answer that letter the Council must send you a ‘Final Notice’. Again if you fail to act on that letter the Council will send out a ‘Magistrates Summons’. If you still fail to answer that the Council will apply for a ‘Liability Order’ to be placed on you. This protocol must be followed for each CT debt.

    (Q) The Council insist that they sent out the Reminders and Final Notices but I didn’t receive them.
    (A) The Council do not have to prove that you received any correspondence only that they sent out the letters in the correct order and in a timely fashion.

    (Q) I know that the Council have obtained a Liability Order what happens next.
    (A) The Liability Order now shows that in law you owe the Council money and therefore the Council can obtain their money from you. The Council can do this is several ways, by the use of Bailiffs, by deductions from your benefits, by deductions from your earnings or by payment plans or by making you Bankrupt. The usual options taken by Council are to ask a Debt Collection agency and its Bailiffs to secure monies owing to the council. It is the Council’s right to decide which method it will use.

    (Q) When a Liability Order is in place does that mean the Council can sell the ‘debt’ to the bailiffs?
    (A) It is a common thought but the Collection Agency does not buy the debt from the Council. There is nothing in the Regulations indicating or allowing the Council to (buy or) sell ‘debt’

    (Q) The Council are insisting that they do not want to deal with me as the debt has been passed to the Bailiffs
    (A) The arrears of Council Tax outstanding are of concern to the Council and to the Council only. The Council are the ‘managers’ or ‘owners’ of the debt. Bailiffs only work as an agency for the Council. Any queries on outstanding debt should always be addressed to the Council. Future Payment plans set up should be between you and the Council. NB notice how many times one word has been deliberately repeated!!!

    (Q) What regulations do the Bailiffs use?
    (A) For Council Tax recovery only those contained in “Council Tax (Administration & Enforcement) Regulations 1992 Schedule 5 – Charges Connected with Distress”

    (Q) I have heard the expression “'vicariously liable” can you please tell me where that fits in?
    (A) This an expression used in law and in this case means the Council is responsible to ensure that the Bailiffs stay within the prescribed Law. If the Bailiffs were to undertake fraudulent activity then both the Bailiffs and the Council are both equally considered ‘at fault’

    (Q) The Bailiffs are at the other side of my door. My chain is stopping them entering but they keep trying to talk to me and hand me something for me to sign. What can I do....... panic?
    (A) Do not panic, it may be the first time for you but the Bailiffs have done this sort of thing before. Take anything that they hand to you but do not hand anything back to them. Under no circumstances sign anything whatsoever. Keep any documents that they hand to you as future evidence if you decide to complain. Don’t get into a shouting match otherwise it can become one big game and everyone will eventually lose.

    (Q) The Bailiffs are still at my door, what more can I do?
    (A) You can ask to see their authority to be at your doorstep. They may offer you an Identification Badge however they also need to produce their Bailiffs Certificate. For any Bailiff to be able to collect CT they have to have a current Certification Number issued by the Courts. If you cannot see any authority and you dispute the bill or amount, then you may consider the person at the door as trespassing. The Police have powers to remove them from your doorstep.

    (Q) After taking all your advice the bailiffs just will not go away.
    (A) Unless you are reasonably certain the person you have business with you is then it is again trespass. The Police will not get involved between you and a Bailiff over a Debt

    (Q) The Bailiffs have left me with a letter claiming I owe £100 in CT arrears and yet the Bailiffs Letter says I owe £1200. I can see how the CT amount is arrived at but please help me; a charge of £1100 does not seem fair.
    (A) You are quite right it is not fair however both Bailiffs and the Council can only claim certain fees & charges and these are laid down in “Council Tax (Administration & Enforcement) Regulations 1992 Schedule 5 – Charges Connected with Distress – Regulation 45”. No other fees can are authorised. At the time of writing these are approximately
    Magistrates & Council Summons Fee & Charges; £45. Bailiffs Fees; 1st Visit Fee; £28.50. 2nd Visit Fee; £18.00. Walking Possession Fee; £12.00. Admin Fee Head H; £24.50. Van attendance fee; any reasonable cost & fees incurred
    However the Bailiffs are not allowed to make these charges as they see fit, they have to be applied in a timely fashion and order and to also follow the Regulations. The amounts stated here are the same that would be applied as in say Plymouth as they are in Newcastle.

    (Q) OK, I can see some of these charges mentioned on the paperwork but there is also a section showing that where I use a debit card, there is a card processing fee, did you forget to include that in the list above?
    (A) You are quite correct; I did leave this out but for good reason. The Debit card processing fee is not included as it is known as an ‘un-authorised fee’, in other words there is no provision in the regulations that allows the Bailiffs to make these types of charges. That is unless you give them express permission that you are in agreement with the Bailiffs placing these fees on you. You should be aware that if you find now or at a later date these charges have been placed on you then it is considered that Fraud took place. Fraud is a crime and should therefore be brought to the attention of the Police

    (Q) As a single lone mum of a young son aged 4 and another one due in 3 months time I have got in a right state about my CT arrears. I admit I have been ignoring various letters and yesterday I hid behind my door as I recognised that a Bailiff was on the outside. The Bailiff pushed a note through the door which just says ‘I will be back tomorrow and I have to pay £100 or else’. I am scared stiff, I can’t sleep, I am not eating properly, is there anything I can do?
    (A) The ‘body’ that oversees the work of Bailiffs (Association of Civil Enforcement Agencies) indicates where bailiffs come across ‘vulnerable’ circumstances, such as yours, that they should report the fact to the Council. Some Council seem better than others but can actually be quite empathetic to your circumstances. They may suggest sorting out payment plans without using enforcement action in order to try to relieve some of the stress from you. Take the initiative and if possible go to the local council offices and explain your circumstances and ask that they place a ‘recovery hold’ on your account and set up a payment plan via deductions from your Benefits, if that is applicable.

    (Q) I have nearly finished a payment Plan between myself and the Bailiffs and now the Bailiffs insist on me owing them a further £150. I don’t understand.
    (A) If you need to check what payments that you have made, or fees that have been charged or when the Bailiffs passed back any money to the Council you will need to carry out a ‘Subject Access Report’ (SAR). The Data Protection laws give us all rights to see what companies are recording information on us all. All you need to do is to send £10 to the Bailiffs Head Office and ask for all information associated with your name to be sent to you in the form of a SAR. However, a word of caution, don’t send the Bailiffs a cheque as it will contain your bank account details, better that you send a Postal Order. The Company has 40 days in which to return the information to you

    (Q) I’ve just spent the weekend shredding all my old documents, on Monday I have received a bill from the Council indicating that I owe arrears from over four years ago. Friday morning I now have a Bailiffs letter telling me that if I don’t pay these arrears they will place extra charges on me. I don’t want the Bailiffs at my home.
    (A) Firstly don’t panic. You should take the initiative, go back to the Council ask for a breakdown in what and when you actually owe the Council. It is sometimes possible to ask for a 'recovery hold' to be placed on your Council Tax account, this is usually for about a 14 day period when any Bailiffs action is halted, this allows time for you to obtain the information from the council and deal with it. Then, if the amount is not in dispute, set up a payment plan direct to the Council (NOT the Bailiffs). The minimum amount per week that is usually acceptable is around about £3 - £4 per week. However, the Council can take payments from certain benefits (Income Support or Income Related Employment & Support Allowance - there may be others) and whilst that is happening and you are regularly paying, NO further bailiffs action can be placed on you.

    (Q) I’m not good at keeping track on my arrears for Council Tax, can you help me?
    (A) Probably a good investment here would be for you to go to one of the supermarkets and purchase a Reporters Shorthand Notebook (usually less than a £1). Use this like a diary and every time there is any activity to do with CT then record it. Don’t forget the date and time.

    (Q) It is far quicker for me to pick up the telephone rather than write a letter to the council.
    (A) It may well be quicker but the answers that you are seeking may not be fully explained to you or you may mis-hear the replies. Unless the answer is given on paper it is easy for any of the interested parties to play the “he said, she said, he said” game. Here everyone gets confused and agitated as the conversation goes on. If you find that you later need to bring a complaint case, will you be able to actually remember ‘word for word’ what was said, so many years later?

    (Q) I have taken on board all that you have said and I am paying back my debt, now the Council said I owe more money and they have suggested that I just go on paying for both a longer time and/or by doubling my existing payments.
    (A) If a Liability Order was obtained for the first debt it is illegal to add any further amount unto that same Order. If a further debt becomes known to the Council they must treat this as a separate matter, they are not entitled to ‘piggy-back’. A reminder notice, final demand, magistrates summons, liability orders must all have to be part of the protocol used to obtain additional money from you. If you do not dispute the amount you can try to agree to set up a new payment plan but it is a separate activity. Any payments that you do make in this respect would have to be allocated to its own Liability Order.
    If you do what you always do, you will always get what you always get!
    Tags: None

  • #2
    Re: The Collection Enforcement & Recovery of Council Tax

    Did you write that Swingletree? It is very useful info, thank you and in PIL....I'll sticky it in this forum for future ref.

    Any support I provide is offered without liability, if you are unsure please seek professional legal guidance.

    Received a Court Claim? Read >>>>> First Steps


    • #3
      Re: The Collection Enforcement & Recovery of Council Tax

      Originally posted by Amethyst View Post
      Did you write that Swingletree? It is very useful info, thank you and in PIL....I'll sticky it in this forum for future ref.
      Yep I wrote it and most of it comes from 'live' situations that have become known to me in a private capacity.
      If you do what you always do, you will always get what you always get!


      • #4
        Re: The Collection Enforcement & Recovery of Council Tax

        Brilliant, thank you

        Any support I provide is offered without liability, if you are unsure please seek professional legal guidance.

        Received a Court Claim? Read >>>>> First Steps


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