Can I avoid Bailiff fees by paying the council?

One of the most popular questions that we receive via our helpline or Enquiry Form is ‘Can I avoid Bailiff fees by paying the council direct?  The simple answer to this  question is no and in fact, this was the subject of a recent court judgment (Bola v Harrow & Newlyn).

Notice of Enforcement.

The enforcement company must by law send you a Notice of Enforcement. A Compliance fee of £75 is added to the debt at this stage. The ‘amount due’ to settle the debt in full includes the Compliance fee (of £75).

If payment including the Compliance fee is not made by the date outlined on the Notice of Enforcement, the account will be passed to an enforcement agent. A personal visit will be made to your property. The purpose of the visit will be to ‘take control’ of your goods. At the time of the visit, an enforcement fee of £235 may be charged. This fee becomes chargeable even if you are not at home at the time of the visit.

How is the ‘amount outstanding’ calculated?

The enforcement regulations specifically provide that the amount due  includes the amount of the debt and the enforcement agent fees calculated  up until the time of payment.

Payments made will be split on a ‘pro rata’ basis.

From any payment made (whether online to the local authority or the Magistrates Court) the Compliance fee of £75 must be deducted first. The balance will then apportioned on a pro rata basis between any remaining bailiff fees and the debt to the local authority or the Magistrate Court (in respect of court fines).

How does this work in practice?

Let’s assume that a Liability Order has been issued for:  £525.

Notice of Enforcement  is sent with  the Compliance fee of £75 added. The amount due increases to: £600

If you fail to pay (or set up a repayment agreement with the bailiff company) during the  ‘compliance stage’ the account will be referred to the enforcement agent/bailiff  for a personal visit to your property. An enforcement fee of £235 is added increasing the amount due to: £835

If you decide to make payment to the  local authority/magistrates court of £525 (being only the amount of the Liability Order /court fine) that payment will be split using the following example:

Compliance stage fee of £75  is deducted at source and the balance of £450  is then split on a ‘pro rata’ basis with approximately 70%  being allocated towards reducing the debt to the  the local authority, …….and the remaining  30%,   allocated towards reducing the bailiff fees.

If I refuse to pay the bailiff does it mean that bailiff fees cannot be collected?

No, it does not. This is a popular ‘myth’ that has its origins with ‘debt avoidance’ websites and is incorrect. The enforcement regulations are clear in that the enforcement companies Compliance fee of £75 must be deducted first from any payment made.  Unless the ‘amount  due’ (which includes bailiff fees) is paid,  bailiff enforcement will continue.

What will the local authority do with the payment?

If payment is made to the local authority (or magistrates court in the case of court fines) after a liability order or warrant  has been passed to the enforcement company, then in almost all cases, the council will forward the entire payment to the relevant enforcement company so that they may deduct their fees in accordance with the ‘pro rata’ provisions as outlined above.

Please note that if a payment is made direct to the local authority (or magistrate court) the payment may take between 5-7 days to process. In most cases, this delay will lead to an enforcement agent making a visit to your property. You will then be liable for the enforcement fee of £235.

Commentary from Bailiff Advice

If you have any queries about the enforcement of a  Liability Order or are experiencing  difficulty in getting a payment agreement accepted, you can email a question to Bailiff Advice using our very popular Enquiry Form. Alternatively, you can contact us by phone. Details are on our Contact page.

 A simple overview of the new Taking Control of Goods Regulations 2013  including details of  fees that can be charged, notices that must be given by the bailiff and items that are ‘exempt’ can be read here.