Enforcement Agents – collection of Council Tax and Business Rate debts

The implementation of the Tribunals Court & Enforcement Act 2007 have brought major reform to the bailiff industry. New procedures took effect on 6 April 2014 and all of our current service providers (Rossendales, Newlyn and Jacobs) follow the new fees and regulations.

From this date the name of bailiffs changed to enforcement agents.

The reforms address three major areas of concern;

  1. Misrepresentation of Powers
  2. Overcharging
  3. Aggressive Behaviour

The enforcement process is clearer and more transparent for all parties. The consequences of non-compliance are clearer, and it is easier to understand the enforcement agents powers.

The new law provides more clarity around when enforcement can take place; the information and notices that must be provided; the goods that can be subject to enforcement and who can undertake enforcement.

All enforcement agents must be certificated (as bailiffs were) in accordance with the requirements of the legislation.

Fees

There are fixed fees which are known in advance so debtors can be advised of what it may cost them should their debt be passed to enforcement agents. The fees apply to Council Tax and Business Rates debt.

Visit our enforcement agents’ fees page for full details.

North and North East Lincolnshire Councils will continue to work closely with our providers to ensure they operate to the appropriate standards and regulations, including those policies around vulnerability.

Processes must be fair to everyone and we continue to try and identify the difference between those customers who ‘can’t pay’ and those who ‘won’t pay.

Our Debt Management teams will provide support and assistance to customers where possible, before their accounts are passed to enforcement agents. We will also try to signpost customers to other support agencies who may be able to offer further help.

Why are enforcement agents used to collect Council Tax or Business Rates?

When a liability order has been granted we have a legal authority to get back the money you owe using an enforcement agent. We will use an enforcement agent if you do not:

  • make a satisfactory payment agreement or pay in full
  • supply employment details which we can use to attach against your earnings satisfactorily
  • receive income support/job seekers allowance from which we can get direct payments

What do enforcement agents do?

They get back money you owe by taking and selling your goods.

An enforcement agent will normally visit your home to ask you for payment. Before making a payment arrangement, they will normally hold the goods and ask you to sign an agreement to hand over the goods if you do not pay.

If you do not pay they will return to take goods up to the value of the money you owe, including costs. The goods will then be sold at public auction. If you ask, the enforcement agent must give you a receipt for all of the money you pay to them, or to their office.

They will charge you fees for the action taken to get back the money you owe.

What fees can enforcement agents charge?

We use three enforcement agent companies to recover outstanding money.

If a debt is passed to them for collection, then you must contact the enforcement agent directly to arrange payment.

The enforcement agent will administer the case and will usually accept a reasonable payment offer. The enforcement agents will contact the debtor directly and will charge extra costs for their services. These extra costs are set amounts laid down by law.

Visit our enforcement agents’ fees page for full details.

Can enforcement agents force entry?

Enforcement agents have the right to come into your property to remove goods as long as they do not use force to get in.

They are not allowed to break open a door but may go in if a door is open, or if it is closed but can be opened without using force.

Once they have entered a property they can force doors inside that are locked. They may force entry if you have given them permission to do so.

What goods can the enforcement agent take?

They can take goods that you own, but you can keep your goods if you either:

  • pay the debt including all costs before goods are removed or sold
  • sign an agreement for the enforcement agent to stay in the property until you have paid your debt
  • sign an agreement that holds the goods so that the enforcement agent can leave the property and return at a later date if you do not pay the debt as agreed.

If you have signed an agreement the enforcement agent may return to remove goods. You do not have to be there. He will return with an appropriate vehicle and remove any of your furniture or belongings. These goods will be placed in secure storage before being sold at public auction.

What happens when the enforcement agent cannot collect the Council Tax or Business Rates?

If the enforcement agent cannot collect what you owe and there are not enough goods to remove to cover the amount owed, we may apply to the magistrates’ court for the issue of a summons for your committal to prison.

This means that you will have to attend court to explain your financial circumstances and reasons why you have not paid. If you do not go to court you will be arrested and brought to court. If you are found guilty, you could face a prison sentence of up to 90 days.

Enforcement agents in North Lincolnshire

North Lincolnshire Council has an agreement with three enforcement agent companies – these are Newlyn, Rossendales and Jacobs.

Enforcement agents should not act illegally and are covered by law. If you feel they have done something wrong, you should first contact the enforcement agent directly. You can also get free confidential advice from your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau. Their contact details can be found in our Directory of Support Services booklet on our advice page Help with Debt.

For more general advice and information, you can visit the enforcement agent pages of GOV.UK.

Visit our What happens if I can’t pay page for further guidance.