Council Tax Help

Know your rights when bailiffs come calling for council tax

When it comes to owing council tax, more and more local authorities are turning to bailiffs to enforce what they feel they’re owed.

Across the North West alone in 2017, bailiffs were dispatched on more than 16,000 occasions to collect council tax, representing a sharp rise in the number of visits to residents across the region.

As a 2018 article in the Daily Post points out though, people are unclear on their rights when a bailiff visits their home. They highlight the case of Mr. Jones (not his real name) who, even though was on a payment plan, was subject to an aggressive bailiff entering his home, unplugging his TV and taking pictures from the walls.

Entering you home by force is something that bailiffs are simply not allowed to do. They also aren’t allowed to enter if children or vulnerable people are present, and can only visit between the hours of 9am to 6pm.

Even then, a bailiff must give the person they’re visiting seven days’ notice of their first visit – information that would have been incredibly handy for Mr. Jones to know on the day he was approached by an unreasonable and unprofessional bailiff.

His case isn’t a one-off though, and is becoming increasingly more commonplace across the UK. In 2017, magistrates’ courts in England and Wales granted 3.5 million council tax liability orders, though only a small handful of people ended up in court.

In July 2018, a House of Commons Treasury committee was told that local councils passed £2.3m of debt cases to bailiffs, which many ministers deem a “worst in class” scenario. For people just about managing or those heavily affected by ‘living debt’, having the council commission a bailiff from as little as a month after missing a payment can be terrifying.

Alistair Chisholm, who collected statistics on local authorities’ use of bailiffs for a report titled “I can’t believe we still do that” for the Institute of Money Advisers, was quoted in the Financial Times in September 2018 as saying: “The approach to council tax debts is completely out of step with the way other debts can be recovered. You can’t go to prison for failing to pay an electricity bill or your
rent.”

You, though, as a resident in your local authority – wherever you live in the UK – have rights if you have a bailiff knocking on your door demanding that you pay council tax, or else…

Get Bailiff Advice can help you learn of your rights totally free of charge, help you with issues surrounding council tax payments, other debts and more. If you’re being harassed by a bailiff, contact our expert legal team now.