This is another important decision from the Local Government Ombudsman confirming once again that if a debtor considers that he is vulnerable, he needs to provide evidence to outline how his vulnerable status affects his ability to deal with the debt. In this complaint, the debtor has also claimed that the warrants of controls are invalid.
A short analysis of the decision is below. A full copy can be viewed on the Local Government Ombudsman’s website here.
- Mr B complains that the council should have withdrawn the bailiffs immediately when he told them that he was vulnerable.
- He considers that as a Blue Badge holders, he should not need to provide any evidence of his vulnerability. He believes that it is the council’s job to prove that he is not vulnerable
- Mr B complained that the bailiffs did not have the correct warrants. He considers the warrants to be invalid.
Mr B had received 5 penalty charge notices (PCN) for parking offences. He believed there is a law from the year 1600 that means he can’t be fined and so can park anywhere. Both he and his wife have Blue Badges. He considered that being granted a Blue Badge meant that he had met the criteria for ‘vulnerability’.
He was of the opinion that the warrants of control were invalid. He claimed that a business centre issued the warrants rather than a court.
He told the Council he was a vulnerable person but would not explain why he considers he is vulnerable. He said that it is the Council’s job to prove he is not. He referred to the Taking Control of Goods National Standards believing that as soon as he told the bailiffs that he is vulnerable (with no explanation) they have to withdraw.
The Council asked Mr B to contact the bailiffs for them to consider his ‘vulnerability’. He was told that he would need to provide supporting written evidence of his ‘vulnerability’ to establish whether there were other conditions e.g. mental health, depression, post- traumatic stress, at risk of self-harm, inability to understand and engage with the process etc.
He was told that if the bailiff deemed his to be a vulnerable household that the Council may withdraw the warrants and close the cases. Mr B did not supply the bailiffs with supporting evidence. Instead, he complained to the Ombudsman.
The Local Government Ombudsman’s decision.
Was the Warrant of Control valid?
The LGO stated that the Traffic Enforcement Centre is the court appointed by the Secretary of State and the Department of Transport to deal with registration of debts arising from penalty charge notices and that warrant requests were sent electronically so there was no requirement for an actual paper warrant.
National Standards and whether a bailiff must cease enforcement if a person claims they are vulnerable.
The LGO disagreed with Mr B. They refer to Regulation 10 of the Taking Control of Goods Regulations 2013 which says that an enforcement agent may not take control of goods where a child or a vulnerable person are the only person present and that legislation does not provide further guidance about how a vulnerable person is defined.
If a person considers that they are vulnerable, do they need to provide evidence.
Under paragraph 33 of their decision, the Ombudsman stated that it cannot be right that a person can say they are vulnerable and all outstanding debts are written off without them giving further information and that if this was the case, then there would be no way for the Council to enforce any debt collection as anybody could claim vulnerability without evidence. They consider that it was reasonable for Mr B to explain why he considers himself to be vulnerable.