Frequently Asked Questions
What enforcement agents do the council use?
West Somerset Council uses Ross and Roberts and Bristow and Sutor and Julious.
Why has the enforcement agent called?
The Council has been unsuccessful in collecting your Council Tax debt therefore it has now been passed onto the enforcement agent in an attempt for them to collect it on the Councils behalf. You will now incur their fees.
An enforcement agent has called – how do I know he/she is an enforcement agent?
Enforcement agents always carry their employee ID card, which has a picture of the enforcement agent displayed, with the name and job title. There is a contact number on the card for the head office. The enforcement agent should always produce their ID on the doorstep on request. If you are still unsure please ring the Council for confirmation.
Can the enforcement agent visit my house at any time?
Yes the Council has agreed that in accordance with the Taking Control of Goods Regulations 2013 an enforcement agent can visit your property between the hours of 6.00 am and 9.00 pm, any day of the week.
What will the enforcement agent do to recover the money I owe?
Under the Taking Control of Goods Regulations 2013 upon receiving instruction from the Council they must send you a Notice of Enforcement letter that will detail the amount you owe the Council. This notice will include their £75.00 compliance fee and detail any future fees that may also be payable. The new powers enforcement agents have over goods make your goods effectively “bound” to them even before they visit, therefore, as soon as you receive the Notice of Enforcement letter you should not dispose of any goods. If you pay the amount in full to include their fees or come to a payment arrangement (and keep to it) you will not be charged any additional fees. If you cannot pay anything then after at least 7 clear days after the Notice of Enforcement has been issued they may visit with a view to remove items belonging to you and selling them to clear or reduce your debt and further fees will be incurred.
I do not think I owe this debt?
Please contact the Council immediately and explain your circumstances and why you do not think you owe the debt. Notify the enforcement agent that you are disputing the debt with the Council. Please do not ignore the situation as the enforcement agent will continue to make visits unless otherwise instructed.
An enforcement agent has attended my address and left a notice of attendance whilst I was out. What should I do?
PLEASE - DO NOT IGNORE IT - Contact the enforcement agent immediately on the telephone number provided on the paperwork he/she has left. The enforcement agent will arrange a convenient time to call back to discuss the best way of settling the debt or setting up a payment plan.
I have been advised not to answer the door to the enforcement agent - what might happen?
An enforcement agent attends your property to take control of goods for the creditor, in this instance, the Council. This initial visit (regardless of whether you are present) has already cost you additional fees of at least £235.00. An enforcement agent will call back on numerous occasions at numerous times of the day in an attempt to meet with you. It will cost you less if you deal with the enforcement agent at the enforcement stage. The later you leave it to pay you may become liable for additional fees of at least £110.00 if your case is moved onto the removal/sale/disposal stage.
An enforcement agent may take control of goods and remove property that is outside your premises such as a vehicle. However, an enforcement agent would rather set up a reasonable payment plan with you than remove your goods. Please talk to the enforcement agent.
If you wilfully refuse to pay, your case will be returned to the Council who will consider other recovery options, including application for committal to prison, bankruptcy/insolvency if your debts are in excess of £750 and/or your case may be referred to another enforcement agent company. Deductions can also be made from your wages or benefits.
Has the enforcement agent the legal right to force entry?
NO – an enforcement agent can only enter premises initially when invited, and cannot forcibly enter the first time; however, an enforcement agent can enter premises through an open door.
However, under certain circumstances an enforcement agent may if necessary use reasonable force to enter your premises.
Which goods can be taken control of?
The enforcement agent will want to take control of goods as security for the debt but only seek to remove goods if you are unwilling to pay the debt. In that instance, he or she can only remove goods that belong to the debtor or are jointly owned by the debtor (even if the other joint owner is not the debtor).
Generally the enforcement agent cannot take control of:
Goods that belong to another person
Fixtures and fittings
Goods on hire purchase
In addition the enforcement agent would not seek to remove the following exempt goods:
items or equipment (for example, tools, books, telephones, computer equipment and vehicles) which are necessary for use personally by the debtor in the debtor’s employment, business, trade, profession, study or education, except that in any case the aggregate value of the items or equipment to which this exemption is applied shall not exceed £1,350;
such clothing, bedding, furniture, household equipment, items and provisions as are reasonably required to satisfy the basic domestic needs of the debtor and every member of the debtor’s household, including (but not restricted to)— .
(i)a cooker or microwave; .
(ii)a refrigerator; .
(iii)a washing machine; .
(iv)a dining table large enough, and sufficient dining chairs, to seat the debtor and every member of the debtor’s household; .
(v)beds and bedding sufficient for the debtor and every member of the debtor’s household; .
(vi)one landline telephone, or if there is no landline telephone at the premises, a mobile or internet telephone which may be used by the debtor or a member of the debtor’s household; .
(vii)any item or equipment reasonably required for— .
(aa)the medical care of the debtor or any member of the debtor’s household; .
(bb)safety in the dwelling-house; or .
(cc)the security of the dwelling-house (for example, an alarm system) or security in the dwelling-house; .
(viii)sufficient lamps or stoves, or other appliance designed to provide lighting or heating facilities, to satisfy the basic heating and lighting needs of the debtor’s household; and .
(ix)any item or equipment reasonably required for the care of— .
(aa)a person under the age of 18; .
(bb)a disabled person; or .
(cc)an older person; .
(c)assistance dogs (including guide dogs, hearing dogs and dogs for disabled persons), sheep dogs, guard dogs or domestic pets; .
(d)a vehicle on which a valid disabled person’s badge is displayed because it is used for, or in relation to which there are reasonable grounds for believing that it is used for, the carriage of a disabled person; .
(e)a vehicle (whether in public ownership or not) which is being used for, or in relation to which there are reasonable grounds for believing that it is used for, police, fire or ambulance purposes; and .
(f)a vehicle displaying a valid British Medical Association badge or other health emergency badge because it is being used for, or in relation to which there are reasonable grounds for believing that it is used for, health emergency purposes.
What will happen to my possessions if they are removed?
They will be stored for a short time before being sold at auction. The money raised from auction will pay off all the enforcement agents fees first, and the remainder will be given to the Council. Remember that the second-hand value of goods can be very low and so, depending on your debts, you may still owe money even if the enforcement agents have taken away most of your things.
Can an arrangement be made?
A weekly/fortnightly or monthly arrangement can be made when payment cannot be made in full. By agreeing to an arrangement, and adhering to it, there should be no need for any further action to be taken.
What is a Controlled Goods Agreement?
This is a legal document signed by both you and the enforcement agent in which you request that the items listed are not removed immediately They have now been “taken control of” or, to put more simply; they have been reserved by the enforcement agent and, if necessary, they can be removed and sold to go towards the outstanding debt if you default on a payment arrangement. If you do not enter into a controlled goods agreement the goods can be removed and sold immediately so by signing you are not giving the enforcement agent powers they do not already have, just delaying them being used.
How can I pay the enforcement agent?
The current payment methods the enforcement agents offer are:
Credit or debit card, either online (24/7), by telephone (24/7) or direct to the enforcement agent
Cheque (unless they have not been honoured in the past)
Post office giro bank (throughout UK) (Ross and Roberts only)
Building society cheque
Cash (do not send through the post)
Direct Debit (new summer 2014 Ross and Roberts only)
What should I do if I forget to make my payment?
You should contact the enforcement agent immediately to explain why you have missed the payment and arrange to pay the missed payment. NEVER IGNORE the fact that you have missed a payment. Their systems are automated and they will think that your intention is not to pay your arrears. You will receive at least one reminder should you default on your payment arrangement. However, if you continue to default with payments, your case will be moved onto enforcement stage for the enforcement agent to visit and you will incur fees of at least £235.00.
What should I do if I have an arrangement but cannot afford to make my regular payment?
You should contact the enforcement agent as soon as possible to explain the reason why your circumstances have changed. Dependent on the type of arrears, your current arrangement plan and your circumstances, they may be able to discuss further payment options. You should never reduce your payments without notifying them as your case may just be issued to an enforcement agent and further costs may be incurred. If you are still experiencing problems please contact the Council on 01643 703704.
Ultimately what happens if I default on an arrangement?
An enforcement agent will attend your property with a view to enforce the debt and execute the order, at this point additional costs may be payable.
What charges can be made by the enforcement agent?
Under the Taking Control of Goods – Fees Regulations 2014 all fees are now fixed as follows:
£75.00 payable at compliance stage (as soon as the enforcement agent is sent your case and prior to you being sent a Notice of Enforcement letter)
£235.00* payable at enforcement stage (should a visit be required)
£110.00* sale/removal/disposal stage
* The latter two stages are subject to additional fees of 7.5% on any amount above £1,500.00.
There are no longer any individual fees for first visit, second visit, levy and attendance to remove goods (which included van hire and waiting times), bounced cheques and payments made by credit or debit card.
I have received paperwork addressed to somebody who does not live at my address. What should I do?
If you are not the person the letter is addressed to then you have no need to worry. You MUST notify the enforcement agent immediately so that they (and other creditors) do not continue to send letters or call at your address. They will ask you to prove you are not the debtor and perhaps supply a copy of a current utility bill in your name (e.g. gas/electric/telephone) or a current tenancy agreement as proof of occupancy.
Please be aware that it is common for debtors to deny their identity. If you are not the debtor you have nothing to hide. If you know the person that the letter is addressed to and/or have a forwarding address and/or telephone number, providing those details will reduce the chances of others writing to your address. It would also assist if you can tell them when they moved.
What if I have a complaint?
Nobody is happy when an enforcement agent calls; however, this in itself is not a reason to complain. We are aware that enforcement agents often work with individuals, families and businesses going through difficult periods which can produce strong feelings and emotions. Enforcement agent staff are committed to ensuring individuals are treated properly with respect and courtesy as they are acting on behalf of the Council. If they have not dealt with you in this way the enforcement agent company will want to know about it.
Anyone wishing to make a complaint may do so in person, by telephone or in writing by letter, fax or e mail. If you complain by telephone they will try to resolve your complaint on the spot. Similarly, if you complain in writing they will respond promptly and in any case within 15 days of receipt. If this is not possible they will explain why and give you a new deadline.
Please note - making a complaint will have no effect on the debt that you owe.
The enforcement agent companies take complaints very seriously and would ask that you contact them initially with all the details so that they can respond to your complaint. If you are still not satisfied when they reply we would request you send the complaint again to West Somerset House, Killick Way, Williton, Taunton, Somerset TA4 4QA or email it to firstname.lastname@example.org and request the Council looks into the matter further. If you are still not satisfied your complaint should be directed to the Local Government Ombudsman.
Are the enforcement agents governed by a code of contact?
YES – They have their own code of conduct which is free on request. They also adhere to the CIVEA (Civil Enforcement Association) code of conduct.
Who are the enforcement agents governing body?
CIVEA (Civil Enforcement Association)
If I have other debts, where can I go for help?
See more information on Debt Advice.