What bailiffs can charge
Some bailiffs take advantage of the fact that few people know what they can and can't be charged for and, according to an undercover reporter for the BBC, bumping up charges and charging for visits that never actually occurred happens frequently. Always check what you have been charged for, and question any visits that sound unlikely. The National Standard 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.
How much bailiffs are allowed to charge, and for what, depends on the type of debt they are collecting.
When the bailiffs come round they should give you a copy of their scale of charges. If they don't, ask for one.
You should definitely also ask in writing for a breakdown of what the bailiffs are charging you. You can use this 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.
Bailiffs collecting Council Tax are not allowed to charge you for letters, but they can charge for 2 visits. They can't charge you for any more than two visits (unless you owe Council tax for more than one year, then they can charge you for two visits per year). 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.
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. If you have paid the debt and costs off in full (whether by a lump sum payment or by instalments) they cannot charge you - although this is also something dodgy firms will try.
Be suspicious of anything not mentioned here - in particular anything called an 'enforcement' fee. If they do charge you more, get help from an advice centre.
County court judgments
Bailiffs enforcing county court judgments will add their charges onto the debt. They can’t charge you for anything else unless some of your belongings have to be sold.
If they take your belongings to sell them, they can also charge you 'reasonable expenses' for taking and storing your stuff. You can also be charged auctioneer’s expenses and the costs of valuing your goods prior to sale.
High Court Enforcement Officers can charge for collecting your debt. If they take 'walking possession' they can also charge you. If they take your property to sell it they can charge you for any expenses they incur. If they sell it, they can take a further percentage of the money raised. They can also charge you for each visit they have to make. Some firms also charge very high fees for a range of extra activities called things like 'administration' or 'case management' etc. If this happens to you, get advice - See 'Where to get help'.
There is no national scale of fees for bailiffs enforcing magistrates' courts fines. But you should still check if what you are being charged is right. Contact the magistrates' court - they should have the local scale and you are entitled to see it if you ask.
Broadly the fees charged are like those for council tax and road traffic penalties -you will be charged for visits, for the seizure of goods, and for the cost of vehicles calling at your home. As with all bailiff fees, you should only be charged for work that was necessary and that was actually done, and all charges should be reasonable. It can be an offence for magistrates court bailiffs to charge too much, so seek advice.
Road traffic fines
Bailiffs collecting money owed for parking fines can charge you for sending a letter telling you that the bailiffs will come round, but only if it is sent before the date they visit.
If they take 'walking possession', or actually take your goods away, they can charge for 'levying distress'. The rules are complicated - so get advice about the current figures.
If they come round but can't do anything - for example, because you don't let them in - they can charge you the reasonable costs of the visit. These cannot be more than the amounts they could charge if you had let them in, and they can only charge you for the first three visits. 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. These can be challenged on the basis that they are disproportionate to the original debt and also because, if there has been no entry to the premises, it is not known if you have anything which could justify the addition of such large extra expenses. If these charges are high, get advice from your local advice centre.
If they take 'walking possession' they can charge you. And if they actually take your stuff they can charge you for taking them, storing them, and valuing them. As well as covering their expenses, if they sell your stuff at an auction they can charge a percentage of the total amount your stuff was sold for or less if it was auctioned from your home.
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 copies of the scale automatically.