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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 71132
Experience:  Over 5 years in practice
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I was away for two months in Spain in the Summer, returning

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I was away for two months in Spain in the Summer, returning to the UK on the 24th August. When I returned to the UK on the 24th August, I found a CCJ waiting for me from a client which had purely been an oversite. I then flew to South Africa on business on the 26th August. I took the judgement with me to South Africa on 26th and paid it on the weekend of 30/31st August via internet banking to give it time to clear before it left me with a bad credit rating. On 1st, my husband called to say we had received a bailiff's letter.
I immediately contacted the bailiff to say that I had already paid the debt to the client. They are insisting however, that they had already sent me a letter through the post before they dropped one through the door, the deadline of which was the 26th August. They said I should have paid £75 when I paid the client and that because I didn't and they had needed to return to the house, the fee was now almost £500.
I know categorically that I never received that initial letter, because I opened all my post in one go on my return from Spain and there was nothing there. Several years ago I had run ins with some bailiffs and I know enough to know you don't mess with them. If there had been a letter, I would have paid the £75 fee and paid the bailiff direct, rather than the client as instructed by the court.
I have been corresponding with them to argue the point ever since, as the letter that came through the door demanded almost £500 and now they have visited again and fee has gone up to £1,041. Surely, if it is wrong, I should have the right to argue it. I have kept in communication with them and haven't ducked the issue.
What would be your suggestion?
They visited my house again on Saturday night and I am at my wits end.
Thank you for your question. My name is ***** ***** I will try to help with this.
What was the date of judgment and how long did you have to pay? Usually it is 28 days.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Date of judgement was 6th August and the CCJ gave me a month to pay. I queried this with Marstons and they said

'It is correct that if a judgement is settled in 28 days, it can be removed from your record. However, during this period a creditor can employ the services of an Enforcement Agency in order to increase the chances of recovery. Fees are chargeable for this service and are unfortunately laid upon the debtor.

If you have paid the Creditor, they are duty bound to inform us and it should be deducted from the balance and fees apportioned accordingly. We have not received any notice of payment from the Creditor.

If you received our first letter, Notice of Enforcement, it would have carried the instruction to pay Marston Group directly within seven clear working days. A minimum fee of £90 would have been applied. As we did not receive a response to the letter, an enforcement visit was required and subsequent fees applied. During enforcement Creditors are politely asked not to negotiate directly with debtors whilst we are under instruction as they may then render themselves liable to fees and costs.'

I didn't receive their first letter. The client subsequently confirmed that they had been paid
Do you know what the judgment said exactly on the point of payment?
Did it use the word 'forthwith'?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Yes, it said You must pay the claimant a total of £2035.37 forthwith

Ok. They were free to act upon that then. Forthwith means immediately. Proceeding on the basis that the claimants did seek an order to allow bailiffs to act you are liable for their costs. The only real question is what sum.
In any event, there is never any point in negotiating with bailiffs. All that does is rack up the charges. The way to challenge them is to pay in full and then sue if you think there has been an over charging.
Bailiffs have been known to over charge on occasions. Fees of over £1k are not unusual with bailiffs though if there have been several visits.
What you are essentially arguing is that they are charging for either work not done or overcharging generally. They are not going to concede that lightly in practice so you may have to sue. You can ask them for a breakdown of their fees with which they will comply. Then complain to the firm instructing them and then to their professional body. If that fails you have to go to the county court.
Do bear in mind that if you lose then you are liable for their costs although they are not onerous usually.
Can I clarify anything for you?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

My point is that I didn't get the first letter from them. If I had done, I would have paid the £75 when I returned home from Spain and received the letter. Then there would have been no need for them to visit and charge me another £400+ on 1st September.

Is there no way for me to appeal?

Yes, in the way I described above.
There is no appeal from a bailiff's fees other than to go to court.
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