Bailiff fees when paying the Council or Court direct.
On of the most frequent enquiries that we receive is about whether or not bailiff fees can be avoided by paying the Council or Magistrates Courts direct. The simple answer is NO and the reason is detailed below.
How much are bailiff fees?
Bailiff fees are outlined under the Taking Control of Goods (Fess) Regulations 2014 and consist of the following:
Compliance Fee: £75
When an account is passed to the enforcement company by either the local authority or the magistrate court a Compliance fee of £75 is added to the debt.
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, the enforcement fee of £235 also becomes payable.
How is the ‘amount outstanding’ calculated?
The Taking Control of Goods Regulations 2013 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, 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 the fact 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 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 debtors may decide to pay the council or the magistrate court direct in the mistaken belief that in doing so, they can avoid paying bailiff fees. In the very early days of the regulations (2014) this method of trying to avoid bailiff fees may have worked but now, very rarely ever succeeds. 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 following example:
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
The 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 Online:
It is important to be aware that if payment is made to the Magistrate Court (either in person or online) after a warrant of control has been issued (for non payment of a court fines) all courts now forward the entire payment to the relevant enforcement company so that the enforcement company can deduct their fees in accordance with the ‘pro rata’ provisions as outlined above and allocate the balance towards the court fine.
Also, if a payment is made direct to the magistrate court (or the local authority) it may take between 5-7 days to process and could lead to an enforcement visit being made which will increase the debt by another £235.