Why do enforcement agents (bailiffs) charge fees?

Why do enforcement agents (bailiffs) charge fees?

Enforcement fees are set by the Government and the same charges are applied to all types of debt. They are applied to the amount outstanding and must be paid at the same time.

The enforcement fee structure is designed to encourage people to make contact at an early stage in order to avoid additional charges. As a result, half of all cases are settled by payment arrangements without a visit ever taking place. Visits by enforcement agents are expensive for enforcement firms who are required to employ agents, hire vehicles and operate sophisticated tracking and body-worn video cameras. Higher fees are imposed to cases to reflect this but are avoided wherever possible because it increases the total amount of debt owed and decreases the chances of a quick resolution.

The work undertaken by CIVEA members is essential to funding local services such as adult social care, leisure facilities, refuse collections, and police and fire services. Uncollected tax means less money for these services and higher bills for law-abiding residents who do pay on time.

Who decides what fees an enforcement agent (bailiff) can charge?

The Government sets the fees under The Taking Control of Goods (Fees) Regulations 2014. Enforcement agents can only charge fees set out in the regulations, which ensures they are applied fairly and consistently.

Court fines are pre-determined on a statutory tariff set in magistrates’ sentencing rules, and penalty charge notices for traffic offences are regulated through the Traffic Management Act. These fines are means-tested by the courts through a means inquiry form, which is a statutory requirement and calculated according to income. Council tax is based on a property valuation.

At the earliest stage of enforcement is the Compliance Stage, which only happens after a creditor has been unable to make contact with an individual and has taken them to court. The Compliance Stage begins when the court instructs an enforcement agency to recover unpaid debt. The Compliance stage was designed to engage debtors through the receipt of a letter and explain the consequences of further non-payment. Anyone receiving a Notice of Enforcement has at least seven days (not including Sundays or Bank Holidays) before any further action is taken unless a court has decided otherwise.

The £75 compliance fee applied to each case covers the entire cost of the compliance process, which is a complex process to verify details, assess circumstances, identify vulnerability and attempt contact through a variety of channels to arrange payment. It can involve tracing, credit checking, DVLA licensing checks, emails, texts, calls, and letters. Around 40% of overdue Council Tax debt is collected at the Compliance Stage.

It is important to understand distinction between fairness and reasonableness. It can be argued that it is unfair to require debtors to pay a debt in-year and to incur charges for non-compliance. Equally it can be considered reasonable for compliant payers not to subsidise the shortfall from non-payment.

Why should I pay fees to enforcement agents (bailiffs) chasing my debt?

Enforcement is the final stage of debt collection, in which the court has already issued a warrant or order instructing an enforcement agent to take control of goods in place of payment. Around 40% of overdue Council Tax debt is collected at the Compliance Stage which means local authorities recover the funds they are owed quicker and debts can be resolved faster. The imposition of extra charges in later stage can be necessary for some individuals to take their circumstances seriously.

When an enforcement company receives an instruction from its client, statutory fees and charges are applied to the case. Much of the work undertaken by enforcement firms takes place behind the scenes which can lead to misinformed complaints about the charges, such as the assumption a charge of £75 has been applied only to send out a Notice of Enforcement. The compliance process is a rigorous attempt to verify details and make contact to arrange payment. It can involve tracing, credit checking, DVLA licensing checks, emails, texts, calls, letters and much more.

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