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What bailiffs can charge

Purse1 newHow much bailiffs are allowed to charge, and for what, depends on the type of debt they are collecting.

Some bailiffs take advantage of the fact that few people know what they can and can't charge for. They may bump up the charges or charge for visits that never actually occurred. Always check what you have been charged for, and question any visits that sound unlikely. The National Standard for Enforcement Agents requires bailiffs to issue a notice every time they do something for which they charge you a fee. Ask to see copies of the notices that go with any suspicious visits or other fees. You can find the National Standards in 'Links to other websites'.

When the bailiffs come round you should ask for a copy of their charges. You can also write to them asking for a breakdown of their charges. Once you have it, use it to check that you are not being overcharged.

If you think you have been overcharged, or are unsure if the charges are correct, get help from an adviser. You have a number of options for challenging fees, including asking a judge to decide if the fees are fair and correct.

Council Tax

Bailiffs collecting council tax are not allowed to charge you for letters, but they can charge for 2 visits. If they take your stuff, they can also make a 'levy charge' for their time and effort. The amount depends on the size of your debt: the more you owe, the higher the charge. Get advice about the current figures (see Where to get help and Jargon Buster).

They can also charge for making a Walking Possession Agreement and, if you have not kept to the agreement, they can charge you for hiring a van to take your belongings away. This must be in line with normal van hire rates. Bailiffs cannot bring a van to your home and try to charge you for it before they get a walking possession agreement - although many dodgy bailiffs will try this.

They can also charge ' reasonable costs' for selling your stuff. If they have taken your stuff away, but don't sell it (because you have since paid up) they can still charge you.

Be suspicious of anything not mentioned here - in particular anything called an 'enforcement' fee. If they do charge you more, get help (see Where to get help and Jargon Buster).

County court judgments

If a county court judgment is made against you, the creditor will have to pay a fee if they want the bailiffs to take action to get the money from you. This fee will be added to your debt. The bailiffs can’t charge you for anything else unless and until your belongings are sold. Once they have been sold, the bailiffs can charge you for removal and storage costs and the cost of valuing and selling your belongings.

High Court judgements

In the High Court, judgements are enforced by people called High Court Enforcement Officers. The law calls acts taken by bailiffs or High Court Enforcement Officers to get the money you owe ‘enforcement’ or ‘enforcement action’.

High Court Enforcement Officers are allowed to charge fees for collecting your debt. The fees are for specific actions and expenses (for example mileage, removal and storage of your belongings and sale costs). The law sets out what fees they can charge. See 'Links to other websites'.

The list of fees also allows miscellaneous fees to be added – usually only after authorisation by a judge. If miscellaneous or other fees which don’t appear on this list are added to your debt, get advice (see Where to get help and Jargon Buster).

Magistrates’ court fines

Magistrates' courts can fine you for many criminal offences including driving offences, not paying a fixed penalty notice and not having a television licence. Magistrates’ court bailiffs can take action to make you pay (enforce) a fine if you don’t pay it voluntarily.

You may be charged, for example, for visits, and for the cost of transporting and storing your belongings. There is no national fee scale for bailiffs enforcing magistrates' courts fines but as with all bailiff fees, you should only be charged a reasonable amount for work that was necessary and actually done. If you contact the magistrates' court, they should have the local fee scale and you are entitled to see it if you ask. Use it to check that what you are being charged is right. If you think the bailiffs have charged you too much, get help (see Where to get help and Jargon Buster).

For more detailed information about Magistrates’ court fines, see 'Links to other websites'.

Parking penalties

Bailiffs collecting money owed for parking penalties can charge you for sending a letter telling you that they are coming round, but only if the date it is sent is before their visit.

If they take control of your belongings (walking possession) or actually take your goods away, they can charge further fees. The rules are complicated so get advice about the current charges (see Where to get help and Jargon Buster).

If they come round but can't do anything, for example, because you don't let them in, they can charge you for the reasonable cost of their visit. This cannot be more than what they could charge if you had let them in. They can only charge you for the first three visits whether they gain entry and take details of your goods or not.

However, many firms will charge you for the cost of bringing a van on each visit, even if you haven't made a walking possession agreement. Most firms make multiple attendance charges, increasing the amount you owe, often by hundreds of pounds. You may be able to challenge these fees. Get advice (see Where to get help and Jargon Buster).

For more detailed information about parking penalties in the county court (including a simplified table of bailiff’s fees), see 'Links to other websites'.

Rent and Child Support

There is a fee scale that says what bailiffs are allowed to charge. Ask the bailiffs for a copy of this if they have not already given you one. Many firms provide a copy automatically.


January 2014

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