Fact Sheet - Bailiffs and Council Tax

 

 

 

You did not get a FINAL NOTICE or REMINDER

The law says the council must send you a "Final Notice" or a "Reminder" to your last known address before applying to a Magistrate for a liability order. If you receive bailiffs at your current address, then you make a complaint to your local councillor or the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) for breach of enforcement regulations. You can ask the council to stop enforcement until the council complies with the law.

 

You were not given a NOTICE OF ENFORCEMENT

The law says you must be given at least seven days’ notice before the bailiff turns up. You have moved, and the bailiff traced you. The address on the liability order is usually wrong. Always ask to see it. Some bailiffs do not give a notice because they stand to gain a higher fee of £310, otherwise they only earn just £75. The law says bailiffs must record the time the debtor was given notice. For such an important document, it is good practice the bailiff gets a proof of posting which costs nothing. If a bailiff failed to record the time the notice is given, enforcement fails and the debtor can sue to recover the bailiff’s fees.

 

The bailiff attended LESS THAN 21 CALENDAR DAYS from the date printed on the Notice

The bailiff must wait until the legal time limit has lapsed before he can attend. The law says the Notice is given by second class post, which means, it is delivered on the 4th weekday after posting - unless the sender makes a sworn affidavit. If the bailiff has attended in haste, enforcement fails and you can sue for damages including recovery of goods taken or claim the replacement cost of them.

 

Bailiff called about unpaid council tax by a FORMER OCCUPANT

You are not liable for other people’s debts. The law says bailiffs may only take control of goods that belong to the debtor. If a bailiff becomes threatening or endangers you, call police on 999 reporting a disturbance. They can deal with the bailiff. Keep the chain on the door and show ID only to police. You don’t know if the bailiff is registered under the Data Protection Act 1998 to be entrusted with your ID.

 

You are a VULNERABLE PERSON

Guidelines define the classes of vulnerable people and the law protects vulnerable people from enforcement action in certain circumstances. If the vulnerable person is alone, the law says the bailiff may not take control of goods. Otherwise, the law requires the bailiff to give the vulnerable person an opportunity to "seek advice". Otherwise, the law prohibits bailiffs recovering fees from debtors who are vulnerable people. Guidelines states creditors must prepare to take back control of the case. The law says fees are not recoverable from vulnerable debtors. The law does not make bailiff companies to have a "welfare department". Bailiff companies coined "welfare departments" to postpone enforcement. They are not medically qualified to decide whether you are a vulnerable person or have access to DWP benefit entitlements.

 

You claim an out of work benefit.

You are in a class of vulnerable people for civil enforcement. The council can apply to the Secretary of State asking him to deduct sums from your benefits. This will cancel the £310 fees because they cannot be recovered from vulnerable debtors.

 

You need more time to pay the arrears

The government issued councils with guidelines saying councils must protect debtors from punitive repayment arrangements imposed by bailiffs. Guidelines published by the Ministry of Justice say bailiffs must not coerce debtors into making payments they cannot afford. You can ask your local councillor or the Local Government Ombudsman to compel the council take back control of the arrears.

 

The bailiff removed an EXEMPT vehicle or goods

The law sets out what makes goods free from civil enforcement. If a bailiff takes control of them, then you can either make an "interpleader claim" under Part 85 of the Civil Procedure Rules, or recover them. You can recover the replacement cost of them by making a claim in the court under Paragraph 66 of Schedule 12 of the Tribunals Courts and Enforcement Act 2007. You can also claim damages for the unlawful deprivation of use at a prescribed daily rate. Recovery of "Special Damages" can be applied for if you paid a financial loss, e.g. rental cars which you have sales invoices, or taxis which you have driver’s receipts setting out each journey taken and the fare. There are no limits on the amount you can claim provided you get sales invoices and receipts.

 

You want to ask the council to WRITE OFF your council tax arrears

If you can show there is no prospect of ever paying your council tax arrears, there is a little-known law that enables councils to write them off. The decision to exercise writing off arrears remains with the council. If you persuade your local councillor to petition the council to write off your arrears, the bailiff and his fees are out of circulation. The debtor’s circumstances must very disappointing, or the hardship impacts your health. Your doctor can fill in a MALG evidence form to support your petition to write off your council tax arrears. You can petition if you missed an opportunity to apply for council tax benefit.

 

The council is enforcing a liability that is disputed

The law says you are liable for council tax for the accommodation you living in unless you have applied for a qualifying rebate. If accommodation is empty, the liability passes to the freeholder. The law provides a list of further exemptions.

 

The bailiff’s fees look too high.

The law sets the fees at £75 when you are given a Notice of Enforcement. £235 when the bailiff attends and £110 when the bailiff starts removing controlled goods to the place of sale. These only apply when bailiffs have complied with all enforcement regulations. If he has not, then you can recover them by making a claim. You must quote the operation of Regulation 3 of the Taking Control of Goods (Fees) Regulations 2014, otherwise judges overlook it.


 

The bailiff charged you £235 "Enforcement Stage fee" more than once

The law says bailiffs can charge the £75 Compliance stage fee of each enforcement power against the same debtor being recovered together. But the law says the £235 enforcement stage fee may only be charged once no matter how many enforcement powers are being executed against the same debtor. If a bailiff charged you multiple £235, for example, in a single taking or clamping of a car, you can recover the sum plus your costs for bringing the claim.

 

You were charged a £110 "Sale Stage Fee"

The law says the sale stage fee £110 only applies when the bailiff has started the process of removing goods to sell. If a bailiff removed the goods (vehicle) to a compound for storage, the sale stage fee does not apply unless the sale takes place at the compound. The fee does not apply when the bailiff says he has "called a truck". The sale stage fee only applies after the bailiff has taken control of your goods using one of the four methods prescribed in paragraph 13(1) of Schedule 12 of the Tribunals Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 and has started the process of moving them to the place of sale.

 

The bailiff said he has a "warrant"

Council tax arrears are recovered by bailiffs under a power conferred by a “liability order". It is not a "warrant". If a bailiff says he has a warrant, he commits fraud by false representation under section 2 of the Fraud Act 2006. The word "warrant" is police-like intended to mislead debtors the bailiff has a greater power than he otherwise has.


 

The council tax liability is over SIX YEARS old

The law says statutory liabilities are barred from enforcement if it remains unpaid for 6 years without the debtor's acknowledgement of the debt.

 

Bailiffs are pestering you about council tax you have ALREADY PAID

Bailiffs cannot take control of your goods after you have paid the council tax to the council. The law says bailiffs may take control of goods to recover the "amount outstanding" and the costs of taking and selling your goods. It does not provide for recovering "fees" when you have paid the amount outstanding on a date before the bailiff takes control of your goods. Enforcement fails and you can sue for damages, recover of the goods taken or you can claim the replacement cost of them.

 

Money paid to bailiffs has GONE MISSING

You have been paying council tax arrears to the bailiff in regular amounts. An audit found a black hole between the amounts paid and the amount the bailiff says is still owing. The bailiffs mishandling or appropriating your money can be used to persuade the council or your local councillor to the take back administration of your council tax arrears and pay back the missing money.

 

You are living in SHARED ACCOMMODATION, a House of Multiple Occupancy (HMO)

The law says the landlord must have a "property license" and is liable for the council tax. Occupants in a House of Multiple Occupancy do not pay council tax.

 

You recently moved and bailiffs is trying to trace you

Bailiffs trace missing debtors using a range of tactics. These include sending text messages to your mobile, putting notices through a list of address they think you are living at and seeing if you respond to them. Nothing requires you to give bailiffs your address. The Ministry of Justice has published guidelines that prohibit bailiffs from tracing missing debtors.

 

The bailiff does not have an ENFORCEMENT CERTIFICATE

The person commits a criminal offence. The law says anyone, unless employed by the government, instructed to take control of goods must have an enforcement certificate. You can report the person to the police for committing an offence under section 63(6) of the Tribunals Courts and Enforcement Act 2007. If the police tell you it’s a civil matter, then you can lay the information before a Justice of the Peace sitting at a magistrates' court for the question of reporting the suspect for the offence. All enforcement carried out by any person not having an enforcement certificate is invalid.

 

The bailiff REFUSED to show his ID

The law says a bailiff must show evidence of his ID to the debtor or any person who appears to be in charge of the premises being attended. If the bailiff refuses to show it, then he is not "acting lawfully". The bailiff can be lawfully removed from the premises or property without the debtor or person committing an offence of "obstructing an enforcement agent".

 

Your vehicle has been wheel clamped (immobilised)

If the vehicle has been clamped while parked on a highway or on your own land, it WILL be removed within two hours. You must act quickly. You may even have to deploy a "Pay and Reclaim". You must record on video the vehicles condition and must be repeated when the car is returned. You can sue for damage caused to it while the bailiff had control of it. If the car is clamped on private land you don't live, such as a car park or a neighbour’s parking space, you can sue for damages and for the recovery of the vehicle.

 

Your vehicle has been towed away.

Call TRACE on 0845 206 8602 and report the car stolen to the police. It doesn't matter if the police tell you it's a civil matter. you must report it to log the call onto the CAD (Computer Aided Dispatch). Inform the DVLA the car has been "taken without permission". That protects you from any traffic offences liability. If your car is on hire purchase, leased or has a logbook loan secured on it, you must inform the lender or leasing company and they can make an "interpleader claim" to recover the car. The bailiff company pays their solicitors costs for bringing the claim.

 

Your vehicle has been sold, but you were not given a valuation

Enforcement fails. The law says the debtor must be given a valuation before the goods are sold. You can sue for the replacement cost of the goods. The law says valuations can be independent, or the bailiff can just make one up. The most irrefutable valuation is written by the dealer principal at a franchised dealership for the vehicle's manufacturer. You can get quick valuations by searching eBay completed sold listings for the same model and condition of the vehicle.

 

The debt is MORE than 12 months old

Before starting enforcement, all debtors by law, must be given a Notice of Enforcement. The Notice only has a service life of 12 months from the date of issue printed on it. Once that time has lapsed, enforcement cannot begin. The bailiff must give a fresh Notice of Enforcement provided the enforcement power has not ceased to have effect in the meantime.


 

The bailiff is enforcing SOMEONE ELSES debt

The law states bailiffs may only take control of goods of the debtor. If you were forced by a bailiff under the threat of an enforcement action to pay a debt owed by another, then you have a right to recover it in the small claims court from the bailiff company along with your costs

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The Bailiff clamped SOMEONE ELSES vehicle

Enforcement fails. The law says the bailiff may only take control of the goods belonging to the debtor. You need not take action. The owner of the vehicle can bring a claim for damages under section 3 of the Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1977.

 

You were fobbed off with "contact the bailiffs"

Question whether you are liable for the council tax. Deploy a Pay and Reclaim. Pay the council tax direct to the council. Find something non-compliant with the enforcement. If you have a car outside, then it is in peril. Otherwise, unless bailiffs get inside your property, the enforcement power cannot be exercised. Offer the council to contact you again when the bailiff has returned the case unpaid. The bailiff’s fees no longer apply.

 

The bailiff ATTENDED before 6AM or after 9PM

If you see bailiff activity at your property before 6am, then you must call police on 999. The time of the call is logged on the CAD and is irrefutable evidence when bringing a claim for non-compliant enforcement. It is common for bailiffs to work at night or under cover of darkness with ANPR vans and clamp cars before 6am, then write on a document they attended at 06.05am. If you or a CCTV system sees enforcement activity before 6am, the enforcement fails and you can sue for damages.

 

The bailiff threatened you with a LOCKSMITH

There is no legislation that says bailiffs can use a "locksmith" or break entry to homes. The word "locksmith" is bailiff terminology for a right to "enter by reasonable force". There is no law enabling bailiffs to enter domestic premises by reasonable force when recovering unpaid council tax. That applies to the recovery of unpaid magistrates’ court fines and even then it is not commercially viable. Bailiffs can enter an unlocked door. Not open windows. If the key is in the lock, the bailiff can unlock the door by turning the key. They cannot unlock a door using a key found under the doormat. When you tell a bailiff to leave your home, he must do so with all due reasonable speed.

 

The debt is paid, the bailiff is pestering about his fees

Bailiffs cannot take control of your goods after you have paid the council tax to the council. The law says bailiffs may take control of goods to recover the "amount outstanding" and the costs of taking and selling your goods. It does not enable bailiffs to recover "fees" after you paid the amount outstanding. Enforcement fails and you can sue for damages, recover of the goods taken or you can claim the replacement cost of them.


 

The bailiff refused to explain his fees and costs

Bailiffs often charge a fee to explain his fees and costs. The law says all fees and disbursements must on the Notice of Enforcement. If they are not, the enforcement fails and you can sue for the recovery of the fees. You bring an action under Paragraph 66 of the Tribunals Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 for breach of paragraph 7(1)(2) of the Schedule. You must quote in your statement of claim, the operation of Regulation 3 of the Taking Control of Goods (Fees) Regulations 2014, otherwise judges overlook it.


 

The bailiff charged a card fee

The fee regulations say bailiffs can only recover the prescribed fees in the Schedule of the Taking Control of Goods (Fees) Regulations 2014 along with disbursements paid for taking and selling the debtors goods. A card fee does not fit these rules. If a bailiff is charging a card fee, then you do not have to pay it. You can reclaim it with a chargeback with your bank or credit card company. Act as soon as the transaction has taken place.

 

The bailiff charged VAT on his fees

The fees and disbursements prescribed the Taking Control of Goods (Fees) Regulations 2014 do not attract VAT. The bailiff is performing services for the creditor, in this case HM Court Service. There is no contractual or consumer relationship between bailiffs and debtors that attract VAT.

 

The bailiff charged "storage fees" for keeping your vehicle

The law provides for bailiffs to recover regulated prescribed fees. Storage fees are neither prescribed nor regulated. The law provides for disbursements, or "costs" to be recovered from the debtor. Storage fees are neither disbursed nor "costs". You may recover all storage fees you have paid to reclaim your car.

 

The bailiff wrote on a document you paid VOLUNTARILY

The bailiff is trying to prevent you recovering the money on the grounds you paid by agreement. This happens when you pay somebody else’s’ debt. When you bring a claim, you must assert by making an affidavit, the bailiff wrote the comment on the receipt AFTER you paid and there is no agreement. You paid after a threat of having your goods removed.

 

The bailiff said he is a "High Court Enforcement Officer"

An enforcement agent, or a "bailiff", is a prescribed person under section 63 of the Tribunals Courts and Enforcement Act 2007. A High Court Enforcement Officer is a prescribed person under regulation 6 of the High Court Enforcement Officers Regulations 2004. If a bailiff says he is a High Court Enforcement Officer when he is not, then he commits an offence under section 2 of the Fraud Act 2006. It is "fraud by false representation". Enforcement Agents cannot officiate and cannot call themselves an "officer". They are "agents" authorised to take control of goods.

 

The bailiff damaged your business reputation

If a bailiff told other people, you have a fine or a debt, you can sue for damages. You must be able to quantify the monetary loss paid and have anyone contacted by the bailiff to come to court as witnesses and making a sworn statement filed in evidence. Otherwise, proving a claim for reputation damage and quantifying your claim is difficult.

 

You were charged MORE THAN £3 for the Liability Order

The council pays £3 to apply for a liability order in the magistrates’ court. A 2015 judgment in the High Court ruled the council must "answer his [the debtor’s] requests for the provision of information how the sum of £125 was arrived at". It is the practice of councils to charge over a £100 for each liability order when applying for over several hundred of them together. If the council is unable or unwilling to explain its disbursements for applying for your individual liability order, you have a right to reclaim them in the small claims court.

 

The controlled good agreement is not compliant with regulations

The controlled goods agreement is a regulated contract between a bailiff and a debtor. If the agreement is not compliant with regulations stating what is must contain, then it fails. Typical reasons a controlled goods agreement fails are the bailiff not identifying the goods listed, or their quantities taken into control are estimates. Controlled Goods Agreements also fail when the goods listed are not the debtors.

 

You are getting unsolicited or nuisance text messages from a bailiff

Bailiff companies sometimes send text messages to mobile numbers who they think might be the debtor. It is a method of tracing missing debtors and seeing if it provokes a response and gets your identity. Never respond to unsolicited or nuisance text messages. Even if the sender's identity is hidden, you can hand it in to the Information Commissioners Office with a complaint under section 1 of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 by completing an online form.

 

A DOCUMENT was left hanging out of your letterbox or communal doorway

It is a bailiff’s method to see whether a property is empty. A document would otherwise be taken in when the occupant comes home. This is the modus operandi of burglars and criminals checking whether a house is empty. It also finds out if the document provokes a reply as a method of tracing missing debtors. It can also be to attract a £235 enforcement stage fee.

 

You told the bailiff to leave your property, and he refused


If the bailiff has not taken control of goods and fails to show evidence of his right to enter the premises, he must leave with all due reasonable speed when the debtor or other person in charge of the property tells him to leave. Failure to comply can bring a claim for damages for breach of Paragraph 26 of Schedule 12 of the Tribunals Courts and Enforcement Act 2007. If the debtor does not live or trade at the address, the bailiff is liable for a trespass action brought by the person in charge of the property.


 

A NOTICE was displayed telling the bailiff to leave the property

Unlike common debt collectors who have no enforcement powers, bailiffs acting with a warrant of control may enter named premises on invitation. He can disregard a notice to leave if the debtor lives or trades from there (unless the bailiff is otherwise not acting lawfully). That does not extend to having a locksmith break entry. That permission must be obtained separately. Otherwise, bailiffs may only enter non-violently, through an unlocked door, or be invited. A liability order does not confer a power to enter premises. It only authorises bailiffs to take control of the debtors goods.


 

The bailiff jammed his BOOT into your DOOR

Enforcement fails. The law says the bailiff may enter a property by "normal means". A bailiff jamming his boot into a door amounts to the use of force against a debtor. The law says a power to use force does not include power to use force against people.

 

The bailiff filmed you with a BODYCAM or a GoPro camera

If you are bringing a claim for unlawful enforcement action which the bailiffs body-cam footage would prove your claim, you have a right to ask for a copy. You may get excuses like "data protection act". You apply to the court to make an order requiring the bailiff to give you his body-cam footage according to a deadline. When the bailiff fails to produce it, the court can strike out his defence and you win your claim without a fight. The bailiff hangs himself with his own rope.

 

The bailiff turned up with a TV film crew

You can stop the footage being broadcast. Section 10 of the Data Protection Act 1998 states you can give a notice to the data controller of the film company or the TV station to stop "processing your data". The Act classes video footage of you and your property as "personal data". If the data controller fails to respond in writing confirming they have stopped processing your data, you can ask the Information Commissioner to assess the breach and issue a fine. You can sue the TV company or TV station in a county court for breach of Section 10 of the Act for a "sum decided by the court".

 

You are being blackmailed. Deploy "Pay & Reclaim"

If the bailiff is demanding money you do not owe, he commits an offence under section 21 of the Theft Act 1968. The police will say the crime is a civil matter. You may have to deploy "Pay & Reclaim". That means conceding to the demand and reclaiming it again thought the courts. If a car removed, you get back control of it. The bailiffs case becomes toxic because he pays the cost of defending your claim regardless your claim is successful. He might as well pay. He cannot make a profit after Pay & Reclaim has been exercised. It becomes commercially toxic for the bailiff company.

 

The bailiff looked like the Police

A bailiff wearing attire with police-like markings or equipment with intent to deceive or impersonate a police officer, commits an offence under Section 90 of the Police Act 1998. If you capture him on video or CCTV, you can report him to the police.

 

The bailiff called the Police

If a bailiff says he called the police, then you can get the call details from the police CAD (Computer Aided Dispatch) by calling them on 101. That not only confirms whether the bailiff called the police, it says what the bailiff said to them. This information is exempt under section 29 of the Data Protection Act 1998. It is a bailiffs’ tactic to scare you into thinking the police will be coming.

 

The bailiff committed a crime against you in the presence of police

Police forces have an institutional policy that says bailiff crime is a civil matter. That is not what the law says. If a police officer witnesses a bailiff committing an offence, then the law says he must place the suspect under arrest. By failing to do so, the police officer commits an offence under Section 26(5) of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015, and you have a right to lay the information and the evidence before a Justice of the Peace sitting at a Magistrates' Court for the question of reporting the suspect for the offence.

 

The police arrested you, or threatened to arrest you

If you are charged with an offence of "obstructing an enforcement agent" under Paragraph 68 of Schedule 12 of the Tribunals Courts Act 2007 and the enforcement agent was not acting lawfully, then you are not guilty of the offence. If you are charged with "interfering with controlled goods" and the bailiff did not lawfully take control of them, then you are not guilty of the offence. You need to get legal representation straight away. You get all your costs paid. If you are threatened with arrest for a charge which you are not guilty, then you can make a complaint against the police officer to police Professional Standards department for abuse of police privilege. If you are arrested and released without charge, you can sue for false arrest and unlawful imprisonment. You need expert help to bring this claim against the police force. Contact me for a case examination.

 

You were injured or assaulted by a bailiff

You must seek medical attention. Time is critical at this stage because you can bring a Personal Injury Claim. Medical evidence is crucial in bringing a claim. The claim can be against the creditor, the bailiff or the bailiff company, or all three of them together. The bailiff company will have liability insurance to pay your claim and compensation. You can make a complaint to police for offences of common assault or Actual Bodily Harm (ABH), depending on the severity of your injuries. Police might tell you the offence is a civil matter.

 

The bailiff damaged your property or vehicle

When a bailiff takes control of goods or a car, the law says liability for their care passes to the bailiff. If your goods become damaged, or returned damaged, the law says you can sue for the repairs or the replacement cost. You must have irrefutable evidence the damage was inflicted by the bailiff. Make a video of the bailiff when he comes into contact with your goods or your car. If your video shows your goods are undamaged when the bailiff took control of them, the bailiff has no defence.

 

You want to make a formal complaint about the bailiff

Bailiffs encourage complaints to their own company or their trade association. You will waste your time. They play lip service getting you into an endless volley of letter-writing until you give up your complaint. There is an official channel to complain about a bailiff, but limited to questioning the bailiff’s fitness to hold a certificate. Unless you can show the bailiff is unfit to hold a certificate, for example he has undeclared convictions, sex offences, commits fraud or lacks proficient knowledge of enforcement regulations. Instead, make a claim and recover your damages. You hit the bailiff where it hurts most - in the pocket.

 

You want to prosecute the bailiff

Anyone can bring a prosecution, but you must gather your evidence, prepare a witness statement then give the police an opportunity to investigate the crime and question the suspect. When the police tell you it’s a civil matter, or choose not to pass the case to the Crown Prosecution Service, you now have a right to lay the information and evidence before a Justice of the Peace sitting in a Magistrates' Court. The magistrate has a power to order the Crown to prosecute the case and issue warrant to the police to bring the suspect into court to enter a plea.

 

You would like to speak to the MEDIA about your bailiff experience

If you want to raise public awareness about your case using the media, you must make your story newsworthy. Only approach the media when your legal proceedings are finished, otherwise your claim can be undermined.

 

You got this far but you still need more help.

Maybe I can fix it? I offer a private telephone consultation service for which I charge a small fee £35. Otherwise, I would be on the telephone 24/7. Your case and evidence is examined, I speak to the bailiff where needed to solve your complaint. If the bailiff is not forthcoming, then I recommend a choice of legal action. This can include a referral to specialist solicitors experienced in civil enforcement redress and legal counsel to represent you at court.

 

You cannot afford to pay for a telephone consultation

You can ask simple questions about your enforcement case by signing up on the UK's only dedicated discussion forum for debtors receiving bailiff action. Do not give your real name or information that could identify you. Other members of the public offer their help.


 

 

 

Jason Bennison (c) 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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