If you have been contacted by an Enforcement Agency or Agent, you are most likely aware of why they are attempting to engage with you. If not then now is the time to start addressing the issue, as this will not go away. Here, we clarify some advice on how you should deal with the situation:
- Compliance Stage
- This is where your account(s) have been referred to an Enforcement Agency by your Local Authority
- If you have received a letter from an Enforcement Agency (this will be called a Compliance Letter) – we recommend that you call their office and let them know that you have received the letter but you would like some time to work out your finances before you can put an offer of payment forward.
- By doing this, you are demonstrating that you are not ignoring the situation and that you have every intention of resolving the issue
- Get in touch with us straight away
I have an Enforcement Agent outside my property. Should I speak to them?
This is where your accounts have exceeded the permitted time-limit at Compliance Stage and have now been allocated to an Enforcement Agent who will be tasked with visiting your property. Whilst we recognise that Enforcement Agents may come across as “unfriendly” or “unhelpful”, remember – they are only carrying out a task that has been bestowed upon them by your Local Authority. All they know is that you have not engaged so far to deal with the arrears issue.
Everybody has a different experience in dealing with Enforcement Agents, as the reason they are trying to engage with you is, for want of a better expression – an embarrassing and personal one.
Why is there an Enforcement Agent visiting my home?
Enforcement Agents are called in by Local Authorities, to try and engage with you to settle outstanding Council Tax or Business Rates issues. The reason Local Authorities feel compelled to deploy an Enforcement Agent is that their own attempts to engage with you have not been successful therefore, we would recommend that you do the following:
Checking that an Enforcement Agent is authorised to visit
It is recommended that you do not let an Enforcement Agent into your property however, there are some instances where this may be required therefore, Before you let an Enforcement Agent into your property, ask them to confirm a few simple things, such as prove their certification and who has appointed your debt to them.
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.
Anyone claiming to be an Enforcement Agent and isn’t one is committing fraud.
If you are faced with an Enforcement Agent on your doorstep, we recommend the following:
Remain calm and be as polite as possible to the Enforcement Agent
Don’t let them inside your property (for Business Rates issues, entry is inevitable so remember the point above)
Talk to them on your doorstep
Answer their questions
Do not agree to an arrangement, unless you are 110% sure you can pay the amount being requested
If an arrangement amount is suggested, but you are not sure that you will be able to stick to this, ask the Enforcement Agent for some time to think about this as you do not want to commit to something that you will then fail on later down the line.
Do not resort to borrowing to settle the arrears. As this could then cause you problems later on
Do I have to let the Enforcement Agent inside my property?
You are not obliged to let an Enforcement Agent enter your property, despite what they may tell you. Denying access however, is easier for Council Tax issues as you will be in control of who can and cannot enter your home – but for Business Rates, due to the nature of the issue – entry is almost a given factor.
If you are a business, facing enforcement action for unpaid Business Rates, Get in touch with us today!
The Enforcement Agent has entered my property but I have not given permission for them to do so. Can they do this?
Enforcement Agents are permitted to enter a property, where this can be done without force. This is called Peaceful Entry.
This can happen when an Enforcement Agent attends your property and:
An external door is ajar
An external door is fully open
An external door is closed, but upon trying the handle, it opens freely or
If you invite them in of your own free will
How do I prevent Peaceful Entry from happening?
To avoid Peaceful Entry from happening, we recommend that you keep all doors, and windows, locked and secured. Whilst entering through windows is not permissible, it is good practice to keep these closed and locked anyway.
In regards to invitation – again, we recommend that you avoid doing this at this stage, as if you do invite them in, than Peaceful Entry will have been obtained and should they call again, forced entry can be applied if you try to deny entry at that point.If you are in arrears, click here to reach out to our Mediation Centre
An Enforcement Agent has gained access to my property. What happens now?
Ok, so this is not the end but you will need to be careful and act fast.
Ultimately, Enforcement Agents are deployed because the arrears remain outstanding and communication between you and your Local Authority has not been positive – for whatever reason. They also need to verify that you are not living a life of luxury, whilst not paying your priority bills therefore, what they will do now is write down a list of your household goods of value that could then be removed and considered for sale at public auction. Remember, there are items that cannot be listed – known as exempt goods. The Enforcement Agent will offer you a final opportunity to pay by arrangement (Controlled Goods Agreement) whereby, if you do not make payments of the agreed amount – the goods that have been listed will be removed from your home.
It is also worth noting that, any goods listed on the Controlled Goods Agreement cannot be sold by you, as they are now effectively the property of the Enforcement Agency however, If you do sell any of the items, all proceeds should be paid to the Enforcement Agent – and you should state what item(s) were sold to achieve this. As a recommendation, you should discuss any potential sale with the Enforcement Agent before you do it – to avoid any complications.
Making Payments to an Enforcement Agent
You can do this on the doorstep – you do not have to let them into your home or by calling them on their mobile number, which should be on any correspondence received (usually by hand if they have attended before)
Make sure you get a receipt to prove you’ve paid. Some do not provide receipts therefore, you should ask them to send you a text message confirming details of any payments made (amount / date / method etc..). Also, keep track of this on your bank statements if paying by card, or note it down on a calendar if paying cash.
If you cannot pay all the money right away, speak to the Enforcement Agent about paying by affordable and sustainable instalments.
Offer to pay what you can afford in weekly or monthly payments.
The Enforcement Agent does not have to accept your offer, but they should consider reasonable offers that will clear the balance in a sensible timeframe.
Other Frequently Asked Questions:
Can an Enforcement Agent send me to prison?
An Enforcement Agent does not have the power to send you to prison however, if your account is returned unpaid to your Local Authority, a decision could be made to recommend you for a Committal Hearing
Can an Enforcement Agent take my car?
Yes – if the car is yours and is of significant value and you are named on the Council Tax / Business Rates bill, which is why we would recommend parking this away from your home for the short-term. If your car is critical to your job, you do not want to lose this at this point, especially if you live in more rural areas of the country.
No – If the car is not yours (which you would have to prove) – this could be because the car is either on finance or a mobility vehicle, or if you are not named on the Council Tax or Business Rates bill
Can an Enforcement Agent break into my property?
No. An Enforcement Agent cannot simply break in to your property to recover unpaid Council Tax or Business Rates however, there may be situations where Peaceful Entry has previously been obtained and permissions have been granted for use of force to RE-enter, though this is a long process and you will be fully aware of this potential action so, as we have stated throughout – you cannot ignore this issue so please, get in touch with us today. We can help you, if you do not feel you can deal with the situation yourselfIf you are in arrears, click here to reach out to our Mediation Centre
Can an Enforcement Agent involve the Police?
Enforcement Agents are people too and have the right to feel safe, when carrying out their job. If an Enforcement Agent feels that there is a potential for a situation to get heated, they will seek to enlist the support of local Police Officers. This is to, not only provide an element of protection for them, but for you too however, the Police cannot simply just get involved and assist an Enforcement Agent in gaining Peaceful Entry. The Police would only ever be present to ensure there is not a breach of the peace. Non-Payment of Council Tax or Business Rates is a civil, not criminal, matter.
Enforcement Agents are there to do a job. A very important job. If you are calm and polite with them, there is no reason why they would treat you with anything other than calmness and politeness. If you are unable to settle the arrears there and then, ask them for time to sort things out and then get in touch with us quickly!