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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 70200
Experience:  Over 5 years in practice
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, We have had a bailiff on our door step last night

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Hi, We have had a bailiff on our door step last night asking for money on a debt owed to our council for council tax. My other half has been paying them for the last 9 months with out fail but last mont was ill with her MS and forgot to make the call. The Debt collection agency sent a letter saying they wanted the remaining £450.00 paid ( from a original debt of £1600.00) or more action would occur. The agent last night handed us a notice with over £300 fees applied to the £450.00. Its my understanding they can apply the enforcement fee to debts over £1500 but due to them saying in writing we owed £450.00 can they still apply the 7.5% charge at the rate of over £1500.00? We have now spoken to the bailiff again and he now says if we pay the £450.00 today they will for go the additional fees?? i believe the fees have been applied illegally or they would not give up their right to them? The firm in question has quite a reputation for bad practice with debt collection charities whom i have contacted today for advise ( Equita) and i believe this tactic is not a legal one its just meant to scare us into paying more than we can afford in one go. Please help.

Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 years ago.
Hi.
Thank you for your question. My name is ***** ***** I will try to help with this.
I'm not sure where the £1500 cut off comes from? Once a matter has been to court and bailiff action has been authorised they can charge for their fees. It matters not what size the debt is. They can only charge fee for work actually performed and there are restrictions upon the amount they can charge although nothing like the ones widely advertised on the internet.
If there has been a visit from an agent then £300 is not unreasonable at all. I suppose you could argue it was an unnecessary visit if a payment plan is being honoured but there has been at least one default and they will seize upon that.
In terms of negotiating over fees, I'm afraid you are reading too much into that. People negotiate over things like that all the time as they would prefer you paid voluntarily than that they had to take more action creating more work. It doesn't mean these fees cannot be enforced.
Can I clarify anything for you?
Jo
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Hi,

Many thanks for your reply, I understand about the charges and why they are applied. Its the point that having read on the Legal aids website

"Step Change" that the enforcement fee applied is for debts over £1500 at a rate of 7.5%. The debt here was £450.00. It just seems strange that a company like this would relinquish this fee if they knew they were legally entitled to it. Its not the first time this company has taken money from us they were not entitled to. They have served us before and the notice they were supposed to give of a visit arrived on the same day the bailiff arrived. In fact he was present when it was delivered. Also the first letter from them detailing the debt and amount owed only turned up a week after we were forced to pay them £400.00 more than was initially owed.

My Reference for information is http://www.adviceguide.org.uk/wales/debt_w/debt_action_your_creditor_can_take_e/bailiffs_e/bailiffs__fees_and_charges_e/fees_bailiffs_can_charge_e.htm

This is the citizen advise page sorry not the step change website mentioned before.

Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 years ago.
Yes, I know they are advertising that. It is nonsense.
A bailiff can charge fees upon any debt in which he has proper authority to do so.
He can only charge for work actually done and it does have to be a reasonable rate. Quite often their fees are inflated and are worth a challenge at court but there are no blanket bans or percentages.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Hi Jo,

Well thank you for your time, its just funny the bailiff is charging exactly what is advertised on the Citizen Advise web page??? It seems wrong that in the world we live in that they can nearly double the debt in one visit. We are both on low incomes and are eligible to claim for council tax assistance but choose not too as we are building a business to become self sufficient as quickly as we can. When presented with this it becomes nearly impossible. Can i just ask one more point of clarification? Can we pay the remainder of the debt directly to the council and not deal with this company?

Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 years ago.
Well, that would tend to suggest it might not relate to work done.
You can actually lawfully pay the council but they will generally refuse to accept it and demand that you pay the bailiffs which is better generally because it prevents confusion and further hassle.
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