Many of you will know them by their former title – “Bailiff” – and you may still come across this terminology in various articles and on a number of websites. This former name carried with it some less than favourable ethics and, in a bid to encourage improved interactions between the industry and the public, the Ministry of Justice – via the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 (TCE 2007)– conducted a major reform of the process for taking control of goods where there are monies owed and there is a court order for those monies to be repaid.
Enforcement Agent or Bailiff?
On the 6th of April 2014, the new regulations came into force. This included the abolition of the “Bailiff” and the introduction of the “Enforcement Agent”. Along with this, came a new fee structure:
- Compliance Fee – £75.00 – applied for each liability order referred to an Enforcement Agency, when they issue their first letter to you by post
- Enforcement Fee – £235.00 plus 7.5% for any balance exceeding £1,500.00 – applied when your account is allocated to an Enforcement Agent and they have to visit your property
- Sale or Disposal Fee – £110.00 plus 7.5% for any balance exceeding £1,500.00 – applied only if goods are removed from your property
What types of debt can an Enforcement Agent be deployed to recover?
Enforcement Agents are only used to assist in the recovery of certain debt types. These are:
- Council Tax and Business Rates
- Parking Penalties
- County Court Judgements (CCJs)
- High Court Judgements
- Magistrates’ Court Fines and Compensation Orders
- Child Support
- Income Tax, National Insurance and VAT
- And of course Commercial Rent Arrears
Definition of an Enforcement Agent
Section 63 of The Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 stipulates that a person is an enforcement agent if they hold a certificate issued by a court (a “Certificated Enforcement Agent”). There are, of course, some exceptions to this rule, this being that Police Officers, HMRC Officers and authorised people of the Welsh Revenue Authority can act as enforcement agents without the requirement to hold a certificate. To this end, the roles of “non-certificated bailiff” and “certificated bailiff” were abolished.
Certification Process for Enforcement Agents
In order to become a “Certificated Enforcement Agent”, there is a procedure that must be followed. This procedure has been laid down by the Certification of Enforcement Agents Regulations 2014. All applications are handled by County Courts, where a Judge will consider all applications and issue certificates to those who:
- Are deemed fit to operate as a Certificated Enforcement Agent
- Possess a satisfactory level of knowledge of the laws and procedures, relating to the powers of enforcement by taking control of goods and of commercial rent arrears recovery
- To be competent to exercise those powers
- Is not involved in debt purchasing
Are there different types of Enforcement Agents?
Yes. Whilst they all carry the title of “Enforcement Agent”, there are different roles in which they operate;
- Certificated Enforcement Agents
- High Court Enforcement Officers
- County Court and Family Court Enforcement Agents
- Civilian Enforcement Officers
Do Enforcement Agents have to tell you if they are planning to visit?
Absolutely! Enforcement Agents must usually give you at least 7 days’ notice of their first visit. Check here to understand how to appropriately deal with contact
Pay what you owe before an Enforcement Agent visits
If you think an Enforcement Agent might visit you, you can prevent this from happening, by paying what you owe or speaking to the issuing authority, such as your Local Authority for Local Taxation debts, to agree upon a Special Payment Arrangement.
Checking that an individual is authorised to operate as an Enforcement Agent
If you are approached by, or answer your door to anyone stating that they are an Enforcement Agent operating on behalf of a Local Authority, and you are not totally sure then please ask the individual the following:
- to see proof of their identity, such as a badge, ID card or enforcement agent certificate
- confirm which Enforcement Agency they are working for
- provide a contact number for the agent
- provide a detailed breakdown of the amount owed
It is your right to ask for proof of an Enforcement Agent’s identity and proof of authorisation to visit, even if they have visited before. You can ask that they put it through the letterbox or show it at the window. We recommend this course of action for vulnerable households.
All Enforcement Agents must have a certificate. If they do not, you must ask who has referred your debt to them and then contact that organisation – for example, your Local Authority if Council Tax or Business Rates. They will then be able to confirm if the person visiting you is doing so lawfully.
Anyone claiming to be an Enforcement Agent and isn’t one is committing fraud.
To check an Enforcement Agent’s identity, find out what kind of Enforcement Agent they are from their proof of identity and then:
- check the register of certificated Enforcement Agents if they say they’re a certificated enforcement agent
- check here if they say they’re a High Court Enforcement Officer