A certificated enforcement agent is an individual who has been granted permission by a Judge to take control of goods when enforcing civil debt, this includes non-payment of council tax, business rates, parking and traffic offences, fines from Magistrates’ Court’s, non-payment of child support, or a failure to pay commercial rent.
The role of an enforcement agent should not be confused with that of a debt collector. A debt collector is someone who recovers money owed under contractual transactions such as credit card debt, loans and the purchase of household goods or vehicles. Such an individual can seize the goods concerned in certain circumstances but, unlike a certificated enforcement agent, cannot seize other goods.
CIVEA does not have the legal authority to stop enforcement action being taken under a warrant of control or an order granted by the court. You should contact the enforcement company, or enforcement agent, as soon as possible to discuss your case and arrange to pay the outstanding balance. If you do not contact the enforcement company, enforcement action can be taken which may result in your goods being taken into control, sold at auction and you will incur further fees and charges.
If you need help, support or advice in dealing with an enforcement company this can be obtained from a national or local advice agency. Where to get free advice and information:
Call charges may apply. Other free advice is available.
If you are unhappy with the Chief Executive Officer’s decision, then you should write to CIVEA explaining what parts of CIVEA’s response you are unhappy about. You should provide further evidence to substantiate these points. The Chief Executive Officer will review the details and decide if the complaint should be re-opened. The Chief Executive Officer will write and let you know the outcome.
If you feel the enforcement agent should face further sanction because he or she is not a fit and proper person to hold a Certificate, you may make a complaint to the County Court Hearing Centre that issued the Enforcement Agent’s Certificate. This can be submitted on form EAC2, “Complaint against a Certificated person”. A District Judge will then review the complaint and conduct a court hearing if it is appropriate to investigate the complaint.
You can find a register of certificated enforcement agents on the Ministry of Justice website here. Please note that CIVEA is not responsible for the accuracy of the information provided on the register and we are unable to respond to enquiries regarding this.
Court proceedings, and decisions made by the court, take precedence over CIVEA’s complaints procedure. Therefore, we are unable to investigate matters that have been or are currently being dealt with by a court.
Should a complaint allege that an enforcement agent working for an enforcement company has committed a criminal act, this can only be investigated by the police.
Similarly, allegations of breaches of The Data Protection Act can only be dealt with by the Information Commissioner’s Office.
Enforcement companies destroy most information they hold on cases after they are finalised, particularly if the case has been paid, or the warrant has been returned to the creditor. In cases where body worn video footage or recorded telephone calls are held, this evidence may also be destroyed after a certain period. The CIVEA code of practice requires members to retain video and audio recordings for a minimum of 28 days. If the complaint is made after six months, a proper investigation then becomes very difficult as the evidence and documentation may no longer be available. It is therefore important for a complaint to be raised as soon after the incident as possible.
CIVEA also destroys documentation after a period of six months if a complaint is not pursued within that time. CIVEA is then unable to consider the matter further.
While it can be frustrating waiting for a response to your complaint, the enforcement company should be allowed sufficient time to investigate the complaint thoroughly. This may include obtaining and reviewing video evidence or taking statements from enforcement agents. Some complaints can take longer than others to investigate depending on their complexity, but the company should keep you up to date on the progress of the investigation. If you are concerned about a delay in your complaint being responded to, you should contact the company directly.
When an enforcement company receives an instruction from its client, statutory fees and charges will be applied to the case. These fees are set by the Government in accordance with the Taking Control of Goods (Fees) Regulations 2014. The fees are added because a warrant or court order has been obtained by a local authority and the payment of the fees can be pursued by the enforcement agent in the same way as the original debt.
Once the case has been passed to an enforcement company or agent, you are required to pay the outstanding balance to the enforcement company, rather than the creditor that you owe money to. Choosing to pay the creditor directly, will not clear your debt or avoid your liability for the fees and the enforcement company will continue in their enforcement action to recover the amounts due.
Enforcement companies are not obliged to accept a payment arrangement, and this might only be considered after assessing your ability to pay. The enforcement company may ask you to submit documentary evidence which explains your financial circumstances.
There are a number of things that affect whether a payment plan can be agreed. These include how long the court order been with the enforcement firm, and what the creditor is willing to accept. If you prove you cannot pay within a certain time, the agent will pass that information on to the creditor. But it’s important to know that if a debt won’t be paid within a certain time, it might go back to the court to be reissued and another enforcement company may visit you.
If you agree a payment arrangement, it is important that you stick to the arrangement and pay on the agreed date. If you fail to make the payment or pay late, the arrangement will be cancelled, and the full balance will become due. Enforcement companies are not obliged to allow debtors to catch up late payments. This may result in further enforcement action being taken and an enforcement agent visiting your address which may incur further fees.
If you are struggling to pay, you should contact the enforcement company immediately to discuss your case. You can also obtain further advice from a local or national advice agency who may be able to contact the company on your behalf.
Enforcement companies are not instructed to deal with disputes regarding the original debt and it is not their responsibility to raise a dispute on behalf of a debtor. The role of the enforcement company and enforcement agent is to collect the balance outstanding or take control of goods to be sold at auction. If you are disputing the debt, you should address the matter at the earliest opportunity directly with the creditor who instructed the enforcement company to act. Only the creditor can suspend the enforcement action.
It is your decision whether to pay or not. However, late or non-payment will result in enforcement fees being added to your account. The fees are fixed and set out in legislation. Your possessions may also be taken into control and sold at auction. If you are disputing the amount you have been charged you should seek further advice or contact the creditor who has instructed the enforcement company to act. You can also submit a complaint to the enforcement company. However, this may not prevent enforcement action continuing while the complaint is being considered.
Unless a vehicle is bought through a recognised motor dealership, where there is a printed company invoice, including a VAT registration number, it can be difficult to prove ownership.
The enforcement company will require copies of certain documentation which may include:
The enforcement company can only suspend action if they are instructed to do so by its client or creditor. Until an appeal is finalised, and the original warrant revoked by the court, enforcement action may continue in accordance with the regulations.
There is a difference between a vehicle that is classed as a tool of the trade compared to one considered necessary or essential. For a vehicle to be considered as a tool of the trade you must be able to show that it is vital for both operating your business and is solely used for business purposes. This can often be evidenced by insurance documentation showing the vehicle is insured for business purposes only.
If any other vehicle could be used as a substitute for work purposes, such as a hire car, then the vehicle is less likely to be classed as a tool of the trade. A vehicle used for commuting to and from work is not a tool of the trade. Also, a limited company cannot claim the benefit of this exemption.
If somebody has moved to a new house, but their details haven’t been updated, you might receive post meant for them. Sometimes enforcement agents are given the wrong information, for example someone might pretend they have moved to a new house when they haven’t. An agent is required to check that the information is correct.
If you provide proof that you live at the address, the case will be referred back to the creditor so that the records can be updated. Proof of residence can be a copy of an up to date utility bill, tenancy agreement or council tax bill. You can post or email these or take a photo on your phone and send them to the enforcement company.
If tracing inquiries suggest that the person named on the court order does still live at your address, or if you have the same family name as the person named on the court order, an enforcement agent will visit you.
If a business is named on the court order, and the business it still registered at your address, an enforcement agent will need to visit.
An enforcement agent can accept a payment from a third party. The regulations state that this must be a voluntary payment.
Pre Visit Letter and Vulnerability Identification Phase
All enforcement visits were suspended by 23 March 2020 at the latest. All other activity, such as issuing of Notices of Enforcement, reminder letters and outbound calls was reduced. CIVEA members fully accept that to simply restart enforcement visits once the Government eases restrictions would not be acceptable.
Therefore, prior to recommencing any visits to customers, all CIVEA members will implement a Pre-visit Letter and Vulnerability Identification Phase. This will involve issuing a light touch reconnection letter, which uses a template based on wording provided by CIVEA, plus follow up communication e.g. by text, email, phone where possible. Firms will use the standard form letter unless their council clients require an alteration. The letter seeks to engage consistently with customers to understand how they have been affected by the COVID-19 crisis and respond as appropriate. Each case will be offered support as appropriate, including signposting to the Money Advice Service and debt advice charities.
Enforcement visit suspension
When enforcement can resume following the lifting of emergency regulations, individuals will be given 30 days’ notice of a visit by an enforcement agent, unless the local authority has specific requirements. This is to provide sufficient opportunity for engagement with customers prior to the attendance of an Enforcement Agent, which could prevent additional fees being added to the outstanding debt
All enforcement agents will be required to undertake additional, mandatory CIVEA-approved training prior to any recommencement of visits.
The newly-designed training programme will include: the effective use of protective equipment and social distancing requirements, how to protect themselves and those that they encounter in the community. This will be supplemented by refresher training on supporting the vulnerable and recognising mental health issues.
Where a telephone number has been sourced and if appropriate to do so, CIVEA members will make outbound calls in advance of enforcement visits to identify any vulnerabilities or changes in circumstances.
Enforcement visits will restart after the government lockdown restrictions that cover such activity are lifted.
Data collection and recording
All CIVEA members will collect and record details of customer vulnerabilities, in line with data protection requirements e.g. customer consent, and develop support plans that reflect CIVEA’s guidance on assessing the impact of COVID-19 on households.
Provision of protective equipment
The majority of enforcement payments are made by telephone before an enforcement agent is required to visit or after a letter has been left. When visits are necessary, CIVEA will work with members to source sufficient workwear and hygiene supplies to protect and reassure staff and members of the public. Enforcement agents will practice social distancing, comply with enhanced hygiene techniques (including disinfecting their kit) and be issued with hand sanitizer. This is in full compliance with the Government and Public Health England advice.
PO Box 745
If you wish to make a complaint against a member of CIVEA, please go to our complaints page and follow the procedure detailed there. Your email will be acknowledged within 5 working days.
CIVEA is unable to discuss complaint matters over the telephone and complaints should be sent in writing. This is to ensure that the details of your complaint are accurately recorded and understood which makes it easier in addressing your complaint thoroughly. Please advise if you have a disability, so that we can make reasonable adjustments.
You can contact us by email, letter or telephone.