Can Bailiffs Force Entry for Council Tax Debt Collections?
Having unmanageable debt of any type can be stressful. This is especially true if your debts include council tax debt arrears. Fielding phone calls and letters from aggressive collection agencies, and struggling to get the funding you need for emergency expenses or everyday essentials are just a few of the many debt-related struggles you may be dealing with. However, if you've already been taken to court and have a judgement against you, you might be wondering if bailiffs force entry for Council Tax debt collections?
Also known as enforcement agents, bailiffs have set procedures that they must adhere to. Forced entry is not a first choice for these entities and is typically only used as a last resort. Moreover, bailiffs are not legally allowed to use forced entry for the purpose of collecting Council Tax debts. The only time in which bailiffs can visit your home from this type of debt is when there's already a signed controlled goods agreement in place.
Notwithstanding these things, dealing with both bailiffs and Council Tax debt on your own can be overwhelming. It's important to know your rights and when they are being overstepped. It's also equally vital to know which legal actions to take when bailiffs fail to follow standard procedures and make serious mistakes. Fortunately, you can rely on DoNotPay to help you set things right. DoNotPay can help you understand your rights as a consumer and the consumer protections that are afforded by the UK.
What Are Bailiffs and What Is Their Role in Debt Collection?
Bailiffs or enforcement agents are professionals who have the legal right to enter your property, remove possessions, and sell them to pay off unpaid debts. However, bailiffs are limited in how and when they can perform such actions. Before a bailiff can obtain entry to your home or seize any of your items, there must be a signed controlled goods agreement in place or a:
- County Court judgement
- Written action from the magistrates' court
- Judgement from the High Court
However, if you have a debt with HM Revenue & Customs, no court judgement or signed controlled goods agreement is required. HM Revenue & Customs is legally allowed to begin physical debt collection actions without first going to court. More often than not, enforcement agents only get involved in the debt collection process after multiple collection efforts have been ignored. Depending upon the type and nature of your debt, if you've failed to respond to court-issued correspondence or have yet to set up a reasonable payment plan, you might have a bailiff visit your property.
Bailiffs can be independent contractors. They can also be employed by the council or by private collection agencies. They typically collect for:
- Child maintenance arrears
- County Court judgements
- Parking fines
- Council Tax arrears for which controlled goods agreements have already been established
Unlike debt collectors, bailiffs have the legal authority to physically remove items of value from consumers' properties for the purpose of debt repayment.
What Is a Controlled Goods Agreement?
A controlled goods agreement stops a bailiff from randomly claiming items in or around your home. For instance, if you have a County Court judgement and have not signed a controlled goods agreement with a bailiff, this person may clamp your car. Once your vehicle has been clamped, you can assume that it's been claimed for the purpose of resolving your debt. One way to prevent bailiffs from claiming and seizing property is by paying your debt in full. Another is to willingingly enter into a controlled goods agreement.
With a controlled goods agreement, the bailiff will survey your home and make a list of items of value that can be used for repayment. Once this agreement has been accepted and signed by you, random efforts to claim your property will cease. A signed controlled goods agreement also gives bailiffs the right to enter homes by force and take the listed items. In certain instances and for certain forms of debt, no controlled goods agreement is necessary for forced entry. However, this is not the case for Council Tax debt. In the instance of Council Tax debt, there must be a signed controlled goods agreement.
To establish a controlled goods agreement, you and the bailiff must:
- Create a written inventory of the items that may be used to resolve your debt
- Establish a mutually agreeable repayment plan
- Verify that the agreement is valid and accurate
- Sign and date the agreement
Before signing a controlled goods agreement with any enforcement agent, be sure to go over the list of items that bailiffs can and cannot take.
What Is Forced Entry?
Bailiffs must submit a letter of intention to let you know that they'll be visiting your home. They cannot enter your property until this letter has been submitted. Even after having submitted their letter of intent, bailiffs cannot:
- Push past you to enter your home
- Enter the home if there is only children below the age of 16 present
- Break windows to gain entry
- Break down your door
Although forced entry sounds quite dramatic, the only legal way for bailiffs to force entry for most types of debt is by acquiring the services of a professional locksmith. However, forced physical entry may be used in rare instances for HM Revenue & Customs tax debts and for the collection of certain criminal fines.
What Tax Debts Can a Bailiff Force Entry For?
Apart from certain HM Revenue & Customs tax debts (such as income tax debts), bailiffs can only force entry into your home for council tax debts if you have a signed controlled goods agreement in place. Moreover, the only time in which enforcement agents are likely to force entry for Council Tax debts is when consumers have failed to meet the repayment terms stated in their controlled goods agreements.
How to File a Complaint About Abusive Bailiffs Collecting on Council Tax Debt?
If you think the bailiffs you’ve dealt with have broken the rules, you can file a complaint. Here are several instances in which a bailiff may have disregarded your rights:
- They have threatened or harassed you.
- They tried to get inside your home without a warrant.
- When they have taken things that are necessary for your work.
- They attempted to charge you inaccurate fees.
- Finally, when they take items that belong to someone else.
The easiest way to file a complaint is by using the Ombudsman’s online complaint form. You can use the contact details below if you have any further questions or would like to submit your complaint any other way.
|Website||Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman|
|Phone||0300 061 0614
Open from Tuesday to Friday between 10am and 4pm but best to call in the afternoon.
|Postal Address||Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman
PO Box 4771
Is There a Time Limit on Council Tax Debt?
According to the Limitation Act 1980, all unsecured debts are considered expired within six years of their start. Council Tax debt is an unsecured debt and thus, it will expire within just six years. Bailiffs cannot force entry into your home, collect any of your items for repayment, or attempt to have you assign a controlled goods agreement for any debt that is legally expired.
How to Make Payments on Your Council Tax Debt
If you've fallen behind on your Council Tax payments, contact your council right away. You can find the contact information for your local council by visiting their website. Rather than paying your entire bill over a 10-month period, you may be granted an extension that allows you to clear your debt over a 12-month period and without facing any arrears or other penalties.
How to Get Debt Payment Assistance for Council Tax Debt
If you are receiving benefits or classify as low income and have yet to apply for benefits, you may be able to have your Council Tax reduced. You can check the requirements for qualification and apply for a Council Tax Reduction. If you are not qualified for a reduction, you may be able to request that your Council Tax payments be deducted directly from your:
- Pension Credit
- Employment and Support Credit
- Universal Credit
If no actions are taken to resolve your debt and a bailiff is sent to your home, you will also be billed for the cost of the bailiff's services including any necessary locksmith fees.
Get Debt Help With DoNotPay!
If you are unable to qualify for a Council Tax reduction there are still ways to avoid forced entry into your home by an enforcement agent. Working with DoNotPay is the easiest way to resolve problems with unpaid Council Tax debt. DoNotPay can make sure that all past and current collection efforts are fully compliant with collection laws. You can also use DoNotPay to find the best method of debt resolution for your circumstances.
To get started, simply do the following steps:
- Search "debt collection" on DoNotPay.
- Answer a series of questions about the debt collectors, including when you were contacted and how you were contacted, so we can determine if they have violated any debt collection laws.
- Decide which course of action you want to take based on our guidance, such as filing a debt verification request, demanding for the collectors to stop contacting you, or reporting them to a professional trade association.
And that's it! Once you choose the course of action you want to take, DoNotPay will handle the rest. We'll deliver your request directly to the debt collectors via first-class mail, or file your complaint automatically with the relevant trade association or ombudsman.
DoNotPay Can Help You Resolve All of Your Debt Troubles
DoNotPay works seamlessly across all platforms, companies, and agencies. You can also use the Debt Help UK product to deal with:
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- Marston Group Holdings
- Lowell Financial
Check out These Other Ways DoNotPay Can Help
With Debt Help UK, you can avoid nerve-wracking, embarrassing, and financially harmful collection efforts even if the debt you owe is for unpaid council taxes. Best of all, with a DoNotPay subscription, you can also get assistance with many other common problems.
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