Can I avoid Bailiff fees by paying the council?

One of the most popular questions that we receive from members of the public via our Question page is ‘Can I avoid Bailiff fees by paying the council direct?  Hopefully this page will  be of assistance.

If a Liability Order or a Warrant of Control for an unpaid penalty charge notice (PCN) has been sent to a bailiff company, then it is extremely  difficult to avoid paying bailiff fees. Full details are provided below:

Bailiff fees:

The fees that a bailiff can charge are outlined under the Taking Control of Goods (Fees) Regulations 2014 and provide that as soon as an account is passed to an enforcement company, a Compliance fee of £75 is added to the debt and will appear on the Notice of Enforcement.

If payment in full (including the Compliance fee of £75) is not made (or a payment arrangement not agreed) within the strict time period outlined on the Notice of Enforcement, the account will automatically be passed to an enforcement agent who will make a personal visit to your property for the purpose of ‘taking control’ of your goods. At the time of the visit, an enforcement fee of £235 may be charged. This fee become chargeable even if you are not at home at the time of the visit.

How is the ‘amount outstanding’ calculated?

This part of the regulations is very important given that it provides that the amount due includes the amount to which the Liability Order or Warrant of Control had been issued for  and the enforcement agent fees calculated  up until the time of payment.

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

The regulations provide that from any payment made (whether made to the local authority or Magistrates Courts either in person or ‘on line’) the payment will be ‘split’ so that some of the payment goes towards the bailiff fees and the balance towards the debt owed to either the local authority or the Magistrate Court (in respect of court fines).

Most importantly, the statutory regulations confirm  that the Compliance Fee of £75 must be deducted first.

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 very 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 action will continue.

What will the local authority do with the payment?

It is important to be aware that following the implementation of the Taking Control of Goods Regulations in 2014, it is now the case that if a person makes  payment 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 most 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.

It is important to also be aware that if a payment is made direct to the local authority (or magistrate court in the case  of court fines) that this payment may take between 5-7 days to process and in most cases, this delay will lead to an enforcement visit being made incurring a fee of £235.

Note 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 Question page. 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.