Council Tax Arrears - Control of Goods
Once you have a liability order for council tax arrears and you have not made a reasonable agreement to repay, further enforcement to recover the debt is the next step. Local authorities can instruct bailiffs (enforcement officers) to work in the capacity of collecting your council tax arrears. There are different rules for bailiffs recovering other types of debt, this information only covers council tax arrears.
Bailiff entering my home
First bailiff visit
Bailiffs visiting vulnerable persons
Goods outside of your home, such as vehicles , are also at risk. Your vehicle (if you have one) should be kept in a locked garage. If you park the vehicle on your drive, it could be clamped. If you decide to park the vehicle away from your home, on a public road, you risk the vehicle being clamped and removed if the bailiff finds it.
Goods owned by another person
A bailiff should not take control of goods that are rented or owned by another person, unless the person is also named on the liability order. You should explain to the bailiff that the item does not belong to you and you and you will need the owner of the goods to provide a receipt or provide a sworn statement, called a statutory declaration
If goods that belong to another person are taken, that person would need to write to the bailiff explaining that they own the goods. The bailiff will then inform the local authority who will make the decision as to accept or reject that person's claim. If the claim is rejected by the local authority the person can make an application to the court, but will be required to pay a deposit. The amount of the deposit will vary depending on the value of the goods.
The bailiff can take control of goods that belong to you and any person named on the liability order. If a jointly owned item belongs to you and your partner and your partner is not named on the liability order, they can take the goods, but they will only be entitled to the value of your share of the goods.
Goods of no or little value
Sometimes the goods you own are not worth enough to cover the cost of the bailiff coming back with a van to remove and sell them. In this situation they will have twelve months from the date of the enforcement notice to take control of your goods. However they are likely to agree instalments on the debt. If you do not pay, then the twelve months will start when the arrangement has been broken.
The bailiffs should not take control of goods that are worth more than you actually owe unless there is only one item that the bailiff thinks is worth taking, such as your vehicle.
If you hide your goods away (for example at another location) and the bailiffs haven’t yet been in they can apply to the court for permission to break into the place where the goods are. If the bailiffs have already been in and obtained a control of your goods agreement, you will be committing an offence if you remove those goods.
Local authorities instruct bailiffs (normally a private bailiff firm) to act on their behalf. Bailiffs can try to remove your possessions to sell at auction at a later date. The process used is ‘taking control of goods’.
Council Tax Bailiff Fees
Request a hold
It is possible to request a hold period with a bailiff firm while you take specialist debt advice. If the bailiff firm refuses to stop recovery to allow you time to seek debt advice, you should contact the local authority to see if they will instruct the bailiffs to hold action.
Record of Payments
The Taking Control of Goods - National Standards
These are good practice guidelines, setting out the rules and procedures that the bailiffs should follow. Further details can be found at:
The Civil Enforcement Association (CIVEA)
Civea is a trade body which many private bailiff firms belong to. Check to see if the bailiff firm is a member of CIVEA and if so you may be able to make a formal complaint to them. Visit www.civea.co.uk/complaints for a members list and details of how to complain.
All council tax bailiffs must be certificated. To check the courts register of certificated bailiffs visit https://certificatedbailiffs.justice.gov.uk/
To check the High Court Enforcement register, visit: https://www.hceoa.org.uk/members/authorised-members-directory