A popular question via our helpline, online Enquiry Form and various internet sites is ‘ Can I avoid bailiff fees by paying the Council or Magistrate Court direct’. The simple answer is that if you are looking at avoiding bailiff fees, this will not be achieved by paying the council or court direct. This page outlines the reason why.
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 and will appear on the Notice of Enforcement. The ‘amount due’ will include the Compliance fee of £75.
Enforcement Fee: £235
If full payment or a payment arrangement is not agreed during the ‘compliance stage’ (this will be the date given on the Notice of Enforcement) the debt will be passed to an individual bailiff/enforcement agent. When he makes a personal visit to the property, an ‘enforcement fee’ of £235 also becomes payable and is added to the debt.
How is the ‘amount outstanding’ calculated?
The regulations state very clearly that the ‘amount due’ includes the amount of the debt from the local authority or Magistrate Court and any enforcement agent fees incurred up to the date of payment. For example; if full payment (including bailiff fees) is made during the ‘compliance stage’, the bailiff fees will be limited to just £75. However, if full payment is made when a bailiff makes a personal visit, the enforcement fee of £235 would also become payable.
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 when payment (or a payment arrangement) can be set up. This is called the ‘Compliance stage’. All companies should be willing to accept a payment arrangement during the ‘compliance stage’. In most cases, an arrangement over a period of 3-4 months is usual.
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. This is explained more easily under item 8.3 of the Explanatory Memorandum supporting the Taking Control of Goods (Fees) Regulations 2014.
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.
Can the bailiff take enforcement action to recover bailiff fees?
As outlined above, once a warrant has been passed to the enforcement agency, bailiff fees become legally due and as confirmed in legislation, 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 (or ceased to have effect). All that it means, is that a part payment has been made. This is confirmed by the Local Government Ombudsman in this decision.
Is there any way in which I can avoid bailiff fees?
If the enforcement company are unable to obtain payment, then at some stage (usually after around 3-4 months) they may return the warrant back to the court or local authority. If so, any remaining bailiff fees will be cancelled. The way in which to significantly limit bailiff fees to just £75 (the Compliance fee) is to either pay the debt in full or agree a payment proposal on receipt of the Notice of Enforcement. This will not only limit the bailiff fees to £75, it will stop a bailiff from visiting your home and an enforcement fee of £235 being added to the debt.
Commentary from Bailiff Advice Online
We will be updating this page shortly to provide details of an important Judgement (Bola v London Borough of Harrow & Newlyn Plc) which confirms that if payment is made to the creditor minus bailiff fees, that enforcement agents may continue enforcement to recover the balance of the debt.