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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: Law
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Experience:  Over 5 years in practice
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I had a unpaid council tax bill that was passed on to a debt

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I had a unpaid council tax bill that was passed on to a debt collection agency, Rossendales. They sent me the liability plus the £75 compliance fee. I paid the liability less the £75. They sent me a letter dated the 26th May saying I owed the £75. Not being paid until the 3rd, I couldn't pay it. On the third a bailiff came round and charged £235 attendance. Can they charge this when the original debt is paid?
Thank you for your question. My name is ***** ***** I will try to help with this.
Did you pay in full before the bailiffs were instructed?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

I paid the full original amount less the compliance fee of £75 before the bailiffs were instructed. The bailiff came to collect the compliance fee only.

Why didn't you pay the £75?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Because it did not appear to be part of the original amount that the court had ordered me to pay. The original letter from Rossendales made no mention of a £75 charge, I was told I had to pay this when I rang them to pay the original amount that was detailed on the letter. I took this to be some kind of Penalty Charge from them for not 'ringing them in time'

The total liability for the council was £201.98 which was made up of the council tax plus court fees I guess. The £75 was then added on when I rang to pay the £201.98, totalling £276.98. I agreed to pay two instalments of £138.49, one I paid on the phone, and for the next one I paid £25.99. This to my mind was the legally enforceable amount I had to pay.

I presume the liability order was made before you paid though?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Sorry, I meant 63.49 for second payment.

The amount I owed to Telford was 201.98 - C tax plus court costs

Rossendales added 75 as the compliance fee

I agreed to pay two instalments of 138.49 two make up the combined amount of 276.98; the first I paid when I agreed the instalment, the 63.49 I paid on the agreed date of the second payment. This meant that the original amount from Telford was paid.

I'm assuming the liability order is for the 201.98 and excludes the compliance fee?

What we need to know is this.
Did you pay in full before the liability order was granted?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

What do you mean by liability order in this case? Are we talking the original 201.98 owed? If so then I only paid this after it been passed to a debt collection company - Rossendales. I've paid that in full through them.

No, the court order.
I presume not because usually they get those before going to bailiffs if indeed this is a council tax issue.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

It is a council tax issue. The bailiff came to collect the compliance fee. I spoke to the council and they say the compliance fee is not their money. I'd paid the council tax amount in full before the bailiff arrived.

Yes, I understand all of that.
What I need to know is whether you paid before the liability order was granted?
It should be possible to date the liabiity order. The council will tell you if you do not know.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

OK, I'll have to ring them.

Ok. Come back when you like.
If they are in a helpful mood they might tell you when they instructed the bailiffs too.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Hi again, having spoken to Telford:

The Hearing and Order was issued on the 20/3/2015, this was passed to Rossendales on the 23/3/2015.

I paid up the final amount of 201.98 via Rossendales on the 5/5/2015.

The letter demanding the compliance fee was dated 26/5/2015, the bailiff arrived today (3/3/2015) to collect the fee.

Telford have received MOST of the amount but not all.

That is bad news I'm afraid.
Come what may, you paid after liability so you are liable for the cost of the court proceedings.
You would still be liable for some bailiff's charges. On the Councils account they instructed them before you paid. The fact is that it isn't council money but the bailiffs charges become part of the debt.
Whether they have overcharged is another matter. They may have done. Bailiffs are known to do that. £75 is not an excessive sum as bailiff's fees go though so you should bear that in mind.
I'm very sorry but I can only give you truthful information.
Can I clarify anything for you?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.


Bummer, so I guess I am liable for the attendance fee of 235 as well for today's visit?

If they did attend you would be liable for something.
You might be able to argue that £235 is overcharging. They wouldn't get that for attending alone unless they did something like clamp a car or something like that.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

If was just to collect the 75 or property to that value.

Even if you owe bailiffs 1p they are entitled to recover.
That is why it is always a good idea to pay bailiffs off and then sue rather than refuse to pay.
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