The simple answer is NO and the reason is outlined in detail below:
The bailiff regulations (that came into force on 6th April 2014) provide a simplified fee scale that is the same for arrears of council tax, non domestic rates, parking charge notices and Magistrate court fines.
How much are bailiff fees?
Compliance Fee: £75
This fee is added to the debt as soon as the account is passed to the enforcement company by either the local authority or the magistrate court and will appear on the Notice of Enforcement. The ‘amount due’ will therefore include the Compliance fee of £75.
Enforcement Fee: £235
If full payment or a payment arrangement is not agreed during the ‘compliance stage’ the debt is passed to an individual bailiff/enforcement agent. When he makes a personal visit to the property, an ‘enforcement fee’ of £235 also becomes payable.
How is the ‘amount outstanding’ calculated?
The new regulations state very clearly that the ‘amount due’ includes the amount of the debt from the local authority or Magistrate Court and the enforcement agent fees calculated up until the time of payment.
Making a payment arrangement.
After the debt has been passed to the enforcement agency, a Notice of Enforcement will be sent and the ‘amount due’ will include the Compliance fee of £75. The letter must state a date and time by which payment (or a payment arrangement) can be set up. This is called the ‘Compliance stage’. All companies should be willing to accept a sensible payment arrangement during the ‘compliance stage’ and in most cases, will accept a payment plan over a period of 3 months and in some cases, even 6 months.
Payments made will be split on a ‘pro rata’ basis.
As outlined above, once the debt has been passed to an enforcement agent, the ‘amount due’ includes bailiff fees. Of significance, is that the regulations state that when a payment is made, it must be split on a ‘pro rata’ basis with the Compliance fee of £75 being deducted first, and the balance (after the £75 has been deducted) being split between the debt to the either the local authority or the Magistrate Court (in respect of court fines) and the remaining bailiff fees.
Making payment direct to the council or the Magistrate Court.
As outlined above, once the debt has been passed to the enforcement agency, the ‘amount due’ includes bailiff fees. Following a Notice of Enforcement or a personal visit, some people may decide to pay the council or the magistrate court direct in the belief that they can avoid paying bailiff fees. This does not work. Generally, the local authority will immediately advise the enforcement company that a payment has been received, and the enforcement agency will allocate that payment in line with the ‘pro rata’ distribution of payments. An example is below:
Liability Order/Magistrates Court fine issued for: £525.
Notice of Enforcement sent and a with Compliance fee of £75 added, the ‘amount due’ increases to: £600
If full payment or a payment arrangement is not set up during the ‘compliance stage’ the account is referred to the enforcement agent/bailiff for a personal visit to the property. An Enforcement Fee of £235 is added and the ‘amount due’ increases to: £835
Debtor makes payment to the local authority/magistrates court of £525 (being the amount of the Liability Order /or court fine).
The Compliance stage fee of £75 is deducted at source and the balance of £450 is split on a ‘pro rata’ basis with approximately 70% being allocated towards reducing the debt to the creditor (ie: local authority or magistrates court) and the remaining 30% allocated towards reducing the bailiff fees.
Can the bailiff take enforcement action to recover his fees?
As outlined above, once a warrant has been passed to the enforcement agency, bailiff fees becomes legally due and the ‘amount outstanding’ includes bailiff fees.
The enforcement regulations have made it a statutory requirement that all payments are split on a ‘pro rata’ basis. Accordingly, unless the ‘amount due’ (which includes bailiff fees) is paid in full, the warrant has not been satisfied and enforcement action can legally continue. It needs to be made clear that paying the local authority or the magistrate court direct does not mean that the warrant has been satisfied. All that it means, is that a part payment has been made against the amount due. It is as simple as that.
Note from Bailiff Advice:
If payment is made to the Magistrate Court (either in person or online) after a warrant of control has been issued, all courts forward the entire payment to the relevant enforcement company so that they can deduct their fees in accordance with the ‘pro rata’ provisions as outlined above. In short, if an account is being managed by an enforcement agent, it is very difficult to avoid paying bailiff fees.