Are enforcement agents (bailiffs) the same as debt collectors?

Are enforcement agents (bailiffs) the same as debt collectors?

Civil Enforcement Agents, previously known as bailiffs, are often confused with debt collectors that work for private companies. This is an incorrect assumption and there are several key differences between the two.

Firstly, enforcement agents execute court orders and warrants. They do not collect debt.

Unpaid taxes, fines and penalties owed to government organisations is fundamentally different to commercial credit debt. Debt incurred with a consumer credit provider can escalate with high levels of interest and charges for missed payments. Council tax charges and court fines are set according to circumstance and can include means-tested reductions and exemptions.

Unlike private sector creditors, the public sector cannot choose who to do business with and withdraw its service for non-payment. For example, council tax is a recurring tax that means people can continue to accumulate debt over several years. Councils have a legal obligation to bill residents annually. Enforcement agents are in effect, an extension of local authority revenue teams.

Enforcement is the final stage of an extensive process, in which the court has issued a warrant or order instructing an enforcement firm to take control of goods in place of payment. This only happens after councils have tried and failed to collect payments themselves.

How is an enforcement agent (bailiff) different to a debt collector?

A Certified Enforcement Agent is empowered under Schedule 12 of the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 to visit a debtor at their property to recover unpaid council tax, business rates, parking fines, magistrates’ court fines, employment tribunal awards, child support payments, B2B and commercial rent arrears.

An enforcement agent’s certificate is granted by the County Court and must be renewed every two years. To qualify, the enforcement agent must satisfy the court that they have sufficient knowledge of the law and procedure evidenced by Level 2 or equivalent Training in the Taking Control of Goods Regulations.

Enforcement agents wear body-worn cameras to record enforcement visits on film and video footage is constantly reviewed to monitor agents’ conduct and performance.

Enforcement is complex, highly specialised and essential work to ensure that taxpayers do not subsidise non-payers. Enforcement Agents operate to a strict codeof practice that promotes high standards and fair treatment of the public.

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