Bailiffs & Council Tax - Know Your Legal Rights - 2
HOW DO I STOP THE BAILIFFS?
The most effective measure to stop the bailiffs from taking away your things is to make an arrangement on how you can pay your debt. Devising an effective instalment plan will be beneficial for you especially if the bailiffs have never been into your home. Offer only what you can afford to pay to prevent any form of misunderstanding to take place.
The bailiffs cannot send you to prison. If they fail to break into your home, their most appropriate action is to pass your debt back to the council. If this happens, it would be much easier to settle the problem. You better take this as a priority debt because if you do not act on it immediately, the council will find another way to recover the money. They can file an Attachment of Earnings Order, which will take out money from your earnings or other form of order that will summon you to pay your financial obligations dutifully.
In some instances, the council may agree to exempt your case from bringing it to the bailiffs' attention. The council allow direct payment schemes for those who are on Income Support, Pension Credit, and Job Seekers' Allowance. Better yet, ask the council whether they can take back your case from the bailiffs so you can deal with them directly. Your local councillor can help you make the deal with the council. Explain your reasons and whatever difficulty it will bring you in case the bailiffs break into your home and take your things to stand a chance for a consideration.
HOW DO I COMPLAIN?
There are Enforcement Regulations that the bailiffs must adhere to. However, the National Standards for Enforcement Agents issued by the Lord Chancellors Department is quite tricky. Although it provides specific guidelines on bailiffs' behaviour in carrying out their duties, mentioning these standards in your complaint may be or may not be beneficial to you. You can lookout for the standards yourself through the Department for Constitutional Affairs website
The law concerning the bailiffs is complex but you can start learning it through by reading the law yourself and trying to understand every bit of technicalities in it. Your personal effort, however, may not be sufficient. If you can, it would be best to get a legal advice on what you can do against what you feel is unlawful action of the bailiffs.
Since October 1998, the bailiffs need to act with a certificate at hand. This certificate to collect Council Tax must be granted by the court. Filing a complaint against the bailiffs can have their certificate withdrawn and their right to enter your house forfeited. To file a complaint, you can write a formal letter to the Court Manager so he can administer a hearing.
Once the court find substance in your complaint, it can rule out to cancel the bailiffs' certificate, order compensation as well as return of the surrendered goods. Some cases acted favourably to the complainants where their debts have been written off due to the bailiffs' illegal acts. This is one of the reasons why you should not take your complaint sitting down. Once you discover an irregularity, you must rush to the Magistrates Court to file a complaint.
The bailiffs report directly to the council and it would be ideal to bring your case there. Once it receives your complaint, it must order the bailiffs to change their procedures. If this do not work, you can call the attention of your local councilor or your local government Ombudsman to look through your case.
If the bailiffs are asking for excessive charges, you can use it as a case for complaint. You can make a written notice to the council telling them that what has been taken from you may be way too much. You can also seek advice from the County Court regarding the appropriate fines the bailiffs can charge you.
Your common sense and your knowledge on local processes can also be useful in determining what amount of fine is reasonable and what is not. If, for example, the bailiffs charged you £80 for attendance with a van and hiring a van costs only £40, you are obviously charged unfairly. When such circumstance takes place, you can instantly call the attention of the bailiffs. Warn them that you will take further action for your complaint to be recognized if they refuse to follow the regulated schedule.
Submit a written complaint to the council so they know how the bailiffs are illegally carrying out their duties. Other than that, you can also apply for a 'Taxation' in the County Court. This kind of application will ask the court to look through your complaint within 12 months after which they should submit a decision whether the bailiffs charges have been excessive or not. If the court decides against you, you will be held liable for the bailiffs' firm's court costs. That's why you must be careful in taking such action. Please remember, however, that making complaints is worth your every effort especially when you are loaded with evidences that will prove that the bailiffs stepped out of the line.
The Secretary Association of Civil Enforcement Agencies Kensington House 33 Imperial Square Cheltenham Glos Tel: 01242241456
Local Government Ombudsman (England) Millbank Tower Millbank London SW1P 4QP Advice Line: 0845 602 1983 Monday to Friday,9.00 am - 4.30 pm
Note: There are a total of three local government Ombudsman offices for England. You may check whom to send a complaint by calling the Advice Line.
Local Government Ombudsman (Wales) Derwen House Court Road Bridgend CF31 1BN Tel: 01656 661 325
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