Frequently Asked Questions
Why should I make a complaint through CIVEA rather than a Form 4 complaint at court?
As is clearly stated in our complaint procedure you cannot utilise our complaints process in addition to the matter being considered by a court. There are, however, distinct advantages to you to making the complaint through CIVEA rather than a court. Firstly, a Form 4 complaint is against an individual bailiff and not the company. Because such proceedings can result in the bailiff having his bailiff certificate revoked, if the judge sees fit to do so, such proceedings will be vigorously defended, usually with professional legal support. Because this is expensive, if the case is not successful it will almost certainly result in an application for costs to be awarded against you. Such awards can be considerable. You are therefore strongly advised to seek advice from a fully qualified legal practitioner before embarking on a Form 4 complaint.
Our complaint procedure is fully funded by the association which means that it will not cost you anything. Your complaint will be considered by the Director General of the association and, where appropriate, by members of the Executive Council of the association none of whom will have any connection with the company against which you are making a complaint.
Do you investigate complaints made against any certificated bailiffs?
No. We can only act in matters that concern our own member companies and personnel who act on their behalf. Whilst CIVEA is the only association representing certificated bailiffs in England and Wales it is not currently compulsory for certificated bailiffs to belong to our organisation.
A bailiff has been trying to get money from me regarding a matter that has apparently been to court but about which I am in dispute. Can the association assist me in this matter?
No. If you are disputing the grounds upon which the court order was made you will need to take up the matter with the organisation that took out the court order in the first place. Once a court order has been made the bailiff, who has been instructed to enforce it, is under a legal duty to do so and to collect the outstanding amount, plus any bailiff charges that have accrued, in full and at the earliest opportunity. This remains the position unless and until full payment has been made or the court order is rescinded. The association has no legal authority to suspend bailiff action once a court order has been made whether or not the grounds for that court order are in dispute. In such circumstances it might be prudent to seek legal advice.
Does the CIVEA give advice about bailiff matters?
No. The CIVEA has neither the remit nor the resources to give advice to the public. The association strongly advises individuals to seek advice from a recognised local or national advice agency or a qualified legal practitioner.
Do you investigate complaints made against high court enforcement officers?
No. We can only act in matters that concern certificated bailiffs working for our own member companies. Whilst some of our member companies also employ high court enforcement officers there is another professional association which represents high court enforcement officers. Their contact address is The Association Secretary, High Court Enforcement Officers Association, P.O. Box 180, Winsford, Cheshire CW7 2WP. Their website can be found at www.hceoa.org.uk with a list of their own members.
Will the CIVEA investigate my complaint against a local authority or other organisation?
No. The CIVEA complaints procedure only applies to members of this association. Any complaint regarding a third party organisation, even when linked to a complaint against a member company, must be made directly to that organisation. It is important that correspondence regarding a complaint is focussed upon that part of the complaint relating to a member company. Excessive material relating to matters beyond the control of the member company could lead to a relevant issue being inadvertently missed and the complaint not being dealt with as effectively as we would wish.
I have had a notice that a bailiff will visit my home tomorrow to seize goods. Can you contact them to stop this happening?
No. The CIVEA has no authority to prevent a bailiff taking action under the authority of a court order. If you cannot make appropriate arrangements with the bailiff or the bailiff company and you require advice then the local Citizens Advice Bureau or a local solicitor may be able to help. Advice cannot be given by the CIVEA.
If I appeal against a fixed penalty ticket that I was not aware of will that stop further bailiff action?
No. This is a similar situation to the question relating to the instigation of the complaints procedure. Until the appeal is finalised, and the original order is revoked by the Traffic Enforcement Centre, bailiff action will continue in accordance with the court order. The association has no power to interfere with such procedures.
If I make a complaint against one of your members, or a bailiff working for one of your members, will that stop further bailiff action?
No. Action by certificated bailiffs is, usually, under the direction of a court order and the association has no authority to interfere with such procedures. The court order instructs the bailiff to recover the outstanding debt in full and immediately.
Can the CIVEA stop further action from a bailiff?
No. CIVEA does not have authority to halt bailiff action, which is normally under the authority of a court order. You would need to seek legal advice on the steps required to prevent further action or make a satisfactory payment to the bailiff. Where it can be shown that an overpayment has been made to a member of the association CIVEA can assist in obtaining a refund, where required.
I think my vehicle is a tool of the trade, can it be seized?
There is a distinct difference between a vehicle that you may consider necessary or even essential and one that is classed as a tool of the trade. For a vehicle to be a ‘tool of the trade' it is essential that the particular vehicle is both necessary for use in your business and used solely for your own personal business use. An exempt vehicle might be a vehicle used as a taxi, or a van signed for the business, and insured for business use only, provided that they satisfy the criteria above. If any other vehicle could be used as a substitute for your work purposes, for example a hired car, then the vehicle is less likely to be classed as a ‘tool of the trade'. A vehicle used for commuting to work is not a ‘tool of the trade'.
A limited company cannot claim the benefit of this exemption.
Can I use a solicitor, or other third party, to make the complaint on my behalf?
Yes, of course, you may use a solicitor to make the complaint on your behalf. However, the complaints procedure was devised to enable individuals to make complaints against members of our association without the requirement for legal assistance. We are happy to deal with the legal profession in our complaint process but this is on the strict understanding that any consequent legal costs incurred are borne by the complainant. Neither the association nor the relevant member company can accept any responsibility for such costs. When a solicitor, or other advisor, is used the association's complaint leaflet must still be signed by the complainant him/herself. Also, where any third party is acting on your behalf, a copy of a written authority signed by you authorising them to correspond with the member company and the association on your behalf in relation to your complaint must be provided when the complaint is made. The complaint leaflet must be signed by the complainant and not by any third party acting on his/her behalf.
If I make a complaint through CIVEA will I be required to travel to give evidence?
No. The main process of the CIVEA complaints procedure is based on an examination of the documents provided by you, the complainant, and the relevant bailiff company. Neither the complainant nor any representative of the relevant bailiff company is present when this occurs. However, if the matter is ultimately referred to the independent panel then they may consider it important that you put the complaint to them in person.
Why doesn't CIVEA get involved in complaints of assault or damage or matters that involve the Data Protection Act?
Complaints that allege that a bailiff has committed a criminal offence must be dealt with by the Police as they are the only organisation with the remit to investigate such matters. Similarly, allegations of breaches of the Data Protection Act must be dealt with through the Information Commissioner's Office.
Why doesn't CIVEA investigate complaints that have been referred to a court?
Court proceedings and decisions made by a court must take precedence over the association's internal complaints procedures. We are unable to reinvestigate matters that have been or are being dealt with by a court.
I have made a complaint to the CIVEA about a bailiff company. If I am not satisfied with the outcome can I take the matter to court?
Individual cases differ considerably and this is another question that would require advice from someone qualified to give a legal opinion. If the matter is put to our Panel - which is the ultimate independent step in our Complaints Procedure - a written undertaking will be sought from the complainant, before the Panel convenes, that the decision will be binding and that the complainant agrees not to take the matter to Court should he/she disagree with that decision.
Where a matter has already been dealt with by a court or is to be dealt with by a court the association cannot investigate the complaint as the court must take precedence in such matters.
I have been told that I cannot complain about an issue with a bailiff that took place some months ago. Why is this?
If a matter has been finalised with a bailiff, that is to say the full outstanding debt and charges have been paid or the warrant or order has been returned to the creditor, there is a requirement for the bailiff company to destroy much of the information held on the matter in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998. If a complaint is made some time after such a ‘finalisation' then it becomes impossible to access relevant information on the matter and proper investigation of the complaint is impossible.
Similarly, if a complaint has been made to the CIVEA and then not pursued for some time then the association may not be in a position to assist further. Documentation relating to complaints is destroyed after six months unless the complaint is currently live in compliance with the Data Protection Acts.
My vehicle has been seized by a bailiff but I bought the car recently in a private sale and I have nothing to do with the debt. How can I get my car back?
If a vehicle is bought other than through a recognised motor dealership, where there is a printed company invoice including a VAT registration number, there can be difficulties with regard to proving ownership. It is normally expected that in such cases a member company will require a copy of the advertisement for sale of the vehicle clearly showing the date on which the advertisement was placed, a certificate of insurance in the name of the owner which specifically covers that vehicle and valid on the date that the vehicle was seized, a valid V5 registration document that clearly shows the date of the change of ownership was notified to and recorded by DVLA before the date of seizure and a valid receipt.
Does it speed matters up if I complain directly to the CIVEA rather than going through the bailiff company against whom I wish to complain?
No. In fact it actually lengthens the process. The Association's rules stipulate that all complaints must first be put in writing and sent to the member company concerned to give them the opportunity to address the complaint. If you, as the complainant, remain dissatisfied with their response then send copies of the correspondence, together with any other relevant information, through to the CIVEA and they will investigate the matter.
I am in dispute with a bailiff company over its charges. If I pay the original outstanding debt directly to the council do I still have to pay the bailiff charges to the bailiff company?
Yes. If bailiff fees have been legitimately incurred they can be pursued by the bailiff in just the same way as the original debt and additional charges will accrue for any further bailiff actions that are needed to be taken to recover those outstanding charges. Once the matter has been placed into the hands of the bailiff any payment directly to the council is likely to make the situation far more complicated rather than sort the matter out.
I had an arrangement to pay the bailiffs a specified amount each month. One of the payments was late and now they are demanding the full outstanding amount, including bailiff charges. Is this acceptable behaviour?
Yes. Payment schedules, when agreed at the discretion of the bailiff company, are in place of the original arrangement under the court order which states that the outstanding amount must be paid immediately and in full. If that arrangement to pay by instalments is broken because payment did not reach the bailiff in time, for whatever reason, the bailiff is entitled to revert back to demanding immediate payment of the outstanding amount, including any bailiff charges that have accrued.
I am disputing the amount that I am being charged by the bailiff company. Am I within my rights to refuse to pay?
Of course it is your decision whether to pay or not. However, non-payment or late payment could result in quite drastic consequences. Certificated bailiffs act under a court order to recover the debt forthwith and any action taken by a bailiff will incur a fee. Such fees can escalate in a dramatic, yet perfectly legitimate, manner. Delay in payment is likely to result in further bailiff action which, in turn, will result in legitimate additional costs being incurred. It could also result in goods, including motor vehicles, being seized and disposed of at auction. Proper legal advice should be sought before contemplating refusal to pay.
I have a number of outstanding Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs), can the bailiff charge fees on each one of them?
Yes, it is perfectly legitimate for a bailiff to assess fees and charges on each individual matter for which a warrant or liability order has been obtained.
I am seeking compensation from a bailiff company. Can you help me?
Our complaints procedure is not designed to deal with claims for compensation for emotional distress or damages. Such matters would normally be the jurisdiction of the courts.
However, if a bailiff company is a member of our association and you can provide documentary evidence that conclusively shows that you suffered specific financial loss directly resulting from the actions of the bailiff company, or someone employed by them to enforce a court order against you, then this may be considered as part of our complaints procedure. Such actions do not include those connected with the lawful enforcement of a valid court order.
The information contained on these pages is provided as a guide and is believed to be factually correct. It should not, however, be considered as legal advice nor should it be used as an alternative to advice from a qualified legal practitioner, where appropriate.