Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Seek Support On Debts To Avoid National Changes To Bailiff Fees

Get in touch early – that’s the message to anyone struggling to pay council tax or business rates in South Cambridgeshire as new national legislation will see bailiff charges change next month.

South Cambridgeshire District Council’s call for people to act early comes ahead of the Taking Control of Goods Act coming in force on Sunday 6 April, which could mean people are hit with bigger penalties if bailiffs are needed to collect overdue debts.

The new legislation regulates the bailiff industry with clear processes and fixed fees for enforcement, taking away the uncertainty for people, as in the past ‘reasonable fees’ could be charged.

But, under the new national system, a standard £75 fee is charged immediately when a debt is handed over to a bailiff, known as Enforcement Agents. This is a cost that can be avoided by making early arrangements with the Council.

If residents or businesses fail to pay and enforcement action is required, a fee of £235 is added, plus a further 7.5% of any debt over £1,500. Where goods are removed, a fee of £110 will be added, and another 7.5% of any debt over £1,500. These fees all belong to the Enforcement Agents and local councils do not get any of the money.

South Cambridgeshire District Council passes accounts to Enforcement Agents when the Magistrates’ Court has made a Liability Order and customers have not come to an agreement to pay, or have broken a repayment arrangement.

In total, 98% of business rates and council tax are paid on time.

Cllr Simon Edwards, South Cambridgeshire District Council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for finance, said: “We always try to work with residents and businesses if they have a problem paying on time, but if you ignore a debt the problem simply spirals and you will encounter extra charges. Please come and speak to us early, we have a good link with the Citizen Advice Bureaux, and by addressing it we could help avoid unnecessary additional charges.

“Businesses in the area should be particularly aware as if a debt over £1,500 is outstanding the legislation adds on significant fees.”