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About Bailiffs and Council Tax

Council Tax and Poll Tax are usually collected by private firms of bailiffs on behalf of your local council. They try to take your goods away and sell them, usually at auction, to raise money to pay the debt. The process they have to follow to say they want your goods is called ‘distraining’ or ‘levying’.

From October 1998 bailiffs who call must be “certificated”. This means they must have a certificate from the County Court allowing them to act as bailiffs. You can complain to the County Court about a certificated bailiff.

From April 1998 you should get a letter from the Council telling you how much you owe and warning you that a bailiff will call if you do not pay the debt within 14 days. It will also tell you who to contact at the council if you have a query. Contact the council and try to make an arrangement to pay what you can afford
immediately. If the council agrees then they can stop bailiffs calling out and save you extra fees.

DO I HAVE TO LET THE BAILIFFS IN?

IF THE BAILIFFS HAVE NOT BEEN INTO YOUR HOME BEFORE TO COLLECT THIS DEBT, THEY HAVE NO RIGHT TO COME IN. THEY CANNOT BREAK IN. YOU CAN CHOOSE NOT TO LET THEM IN.

* DON’T open the door to them as they may try to push past you. If they get inside, they have a right to enter again and may break in to take your goods.

* DON’T leave windows open or doors unlocked – bailiffs can legally get in through these. Bailiffs
CANNOT get the police to help them break in.

* BEWARE! Some bailiffs may leave you a phone number, and arrange to come round to ‘have a chat’. Don’t let them in, even if they say it’s only to use the toilet or make a phone call.

* Bailiffs MAY try to break into sheds, garages, greenhouses etc., even though this is illegal. KEEP VALUABLES SAFE! They may be able to take cars, motor-bikes and other vehicles parked near your home.

* Politely but firmly refuse to let the bailiffs in. Offer what you can afford to pay. If the bailiffs accept your offer, ask them to return to their car, and go out and pay them. Make sure you get a receipt.

DON’T SIGN ANYTHING! If the bailiff leaves papers for you to sign and return, you do not have to do this. You don’t have to sign agreements posted through your door either.

THE BAILIFFS HAVE ALREADY BEEN INSIDE MY HOME

THIS IS MORE SERIOUS. If you have let them in before, then bailiffs have the right to return to you home and if you don’t let them in, they are allowed to break in.

* Contact the bailiffs straight away and make an offer to pay the debt in instalments. Show them a copy of your personal budget so they can see you are offering as much as you can afford. You will need to treat this as a priority debt as bailiffs could come back and take any goods they have listed if you don’t pay. Get a receipt for any payments you make.

* Contact you council and ask them to take the debt back. Ask your local Councillor for help.