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Enforcement Agents and Control of Goods for Council Tax

 

Shazz
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Hi

I have just seen a client who lives along and works full time low paid. He told me that he recently came home from work to be met by a neighbour who said “I think you’ve been burgled”. When he entered his home a “control of goods” was left and a number to call. The enforcement agent has demanded he pay £59 a week and if he doesn’t they will quote from client “break into your property when you are at work and remove your goods. We know the hours when you are working”. (He thinks they got in via an open window)

Now obviously, this is what my client is telling me and would have to be looked into. I have advised him that the goods he has on HP he will need to produce the paperwork for this. If this has actually happened, he would have to sign the control of goods wouldn’t he? He is going to send me the control of goods as he says it isn’t signed. If this is the case would we have grounds for complaint and if so are there any links anyone could send so I could start the process? It just seems very heavy handed. In addition, the reason I came across him as he has rent arrears and is being taken to court, but this is because he couldn’t afford to pay his rent because of the enforcement agents demands. Any advice much appreciated.

Sharon

     
pollyanna73
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A bailiff is only allowed to get into your home through any usual way of entry. This includes the following:
•a door
•a gate
•an attached garage
•the door of a car, boat, caravan or other vehicle, if that vehicle is your home
•the entrance of a tent, if that tent is your home
•a loading bay.

This means that the bailiff isn’t allowed to get into your home or premises through any of these ways:
•a window
•by taking up floorboads
•by climbing over a wall or fence
•by climbing over a locked gate or barrier.

Reasonable Force

The bailiff isn’t allowed to enter the premises through anything other than the normal means of entry, which usually means through a door, an attached garage or a loading bay. This means that reasonable force may include, but isn’t limited to the following:
•forcing a door open by breaking the lock or hinges
•forcing a gate open
•cutting through a padlock and chain that has been put over a door, gate or loading bay
•breaking down a vehicle barrier.

Reasonable force doesn’t include the following, because they are all ways in which the bailiff isn’t allowed to enter your home or premises:
•pushing you or anyone else out of the way
•getting in through an open window
•breaking a window to get in
•taking up floorboards to access part of your property
•climbing over a fence or wall.

There are instances when force can be used - however it doesn’t sound as if your client is near that point just yet.

     
Oldestrocker
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Not too sure that you are right there unless the rules have changed.

A bailiff or enforcement agent (be it for a county or high court writ), can access a residential property on the basis that ‘he/she made peaceful entry’.
A window being left open used to be an acceptable means of entry.
In fact I have known bailiffs and enforcement agents to always have a collapsible ladder in their vehicle for this very purpose. People seem to forget the first floor windows being left open.
As for ‘giving ‘walking possession’ all that has happened is that the agent has secured the debt to what he has found inside the house or maybe an unlocked garage door. Whether permission has to be obtained from the debtor before distraint action I doubt it.
If ‘walking possession’ has been obtained, then yes if the debt is not cleared as demanded and unless the debtor comes to a different arrangement, they have every right to force entry to remove those goods at any time.
Many times I have instructed a High Court Enforcement agent to seize and remove an asset by force if need be such as a car/caravan/boat without giving the debtor prior notice

I am surprised how many people leave debts undealt with and end up in this situation with all of the extra costs added on top.

Now my advice is a few years old so I would advise contact with a solicitor asap to verify especially where ownership is disputed of the seized article.

 

      [ Edited: 8 Sep 2017 at 05:36 pm by Oldestrocker ]
Elliot Kent
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There were huge reforms a few years ago which included abolition of the old concepts of peaceable entry, levying and walking possession. I wouldn’t want to rely on my old recollections.

Advice is needed, but probably from a debt specialist rather than a solicitor.

     
Jon (CHDCA)
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As said above, peacable entry has tightened up, windows aren’t allowed now. ‘Controlled goods’ is pretty similar to the old walking possession, i.e. needs to be signed by the debtor or their agent. Sounds like there might be at least 2 grounds of complaint if it checks out, National debtline has decent info and links to the new national standards (59.  Enforcement agents must only use a door or usual means of entry to enter premises, etc).

Given that it’s council tax, then as well as complaining to the bailiff firm, a complaint direct to the council about the behaviour of their agents may produce some results. Try to check if the council has a particular code of practice, or might have signed up to something like Cit A’s good practice protocol.

If you see multiple cases like this, persuading the council to drop the contract in favour of a more reputable firm might be a more realistic goal than getting the bailiff’s certificate revoked.

Final edit to this post: council tax debt (not to mention rent) needs to be addressed as a priority debt, please refer to a debt advisor for next steps.

      [ Edited: 9 Sep 2017 at 12:41 am by Jon (CHDCA) ]
Shazz
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Thanks everyone for your advice. Much appreciated

     
Mike Hughes
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You will of course want to have a long think about those paras. beginning with a 7 in this.

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/353396/taking-control-of-goods-national-standards.pdf

If a client is known to a local authority and can be classified as vulnerable then the LA should simply never refer them to a bailiff. If the bailiff is not made aware of such information but discovers it as they jolly along in their inimitable cheerful manner then of course they should return the matter immediately to the LA. Funny how often this doesn’t seem to happen. Equally funny how quickly they all find some other remarkable reason to back down once it’s pointed out!

     
Benny Fitzpatrick
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Out of interest, which bailiff firm is it?

     
Mike Hughes
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Benny Fitzpatrick - 12 September 2017 10:32 AM

Out of interest, which bailiff firm is it?

Love the use of the word “firm” there :)

Says much about the perception of bailiffs. Perhaps they ought to take note.

     
Benny Fitzpatrick
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I take the point Mike. However, any other collective term I can think of for bailiffs would probably not be acceptable on a respectable forum like this!

     
Mike Hughes
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Benny Fitzpatrick - 12 September 2017 10:43 AM

I take the point Mike. However, any other collective term I can think of for bailiffs would probably not be acceptable on a respectable forum like this!

Indeed.

     
Alice SF
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It’s also worth confirming whether the enforcement officer’s registration is still up to date here:-

https://certificatedbailiffs.justice.gov.uk/

It’s highly unlikely that he/she is not registered but still good to check just in case.  Also remember that if a certificated enforcement officer acts in an unprofessional manner or there are serious conduct issues, you can notify the court who granted the certificate that they are not a ‘fit and proper’ person and potentially get them removed from the register.