This decision from the Local Government Ombudsman confirms once again, that if an account has been passed to a firm of bailiffs, that paying the council direct will not avoid Bailiff Fees. The decision reached by the Ombudsman was that paying the council direct is considered a part payment.
A short analysis of the decision is below. The full decision can be viewed on the Local Government Ombudsman’s website here.
- The complainant (Ms A) complains that the Council should not have allowed her to make payment online when her account had been passed to bailiffs (incurring additional costs)
- She complained that as she had paid the amount of the PCN, bailiff action should cease.
- She also complained that she had not received any of the statutory notices issued by the council.
Ms A’s vehicle was involved in a parking contravention in September 2015. She did not make payment or make formal representations against the PCN so the Council pursued the debt against her. It issued a warrant of control on 13th June 2016 in the sum of £97 and passed the debt to its bailiffs to enforce.
A Notice of Enforcement was issued by the enforcement company on 16th June 2016. A Compliance Fee of £75 was added to the debt. A week later, Ms A made a payment of £97 to the council using their online payment facility. She did not include payment of the Compliance Fee of £75.
Ms A argued that the Council should not have allowed her to make a payment online when the case was with its bailiffs.
Ms A complained that she had not received any of the statutory notices from the council.
Local Government Ombudsman’s response.
As Ms A’s complaint concerned a number of very important points regarding payments being made direct to the council in order to avoid bailiff fees, we have itemised the Local Government Ombudsman’s decision under different headings.
The Local Authority allowed payment to be made online after passing the debt to bailiffs.
On this point, the LGO stated in Para 7 of their decision that Ms A’s payment of 26th June 2016 was only made after her case had been referred to bailiffs and that motorists can make a part payment towards a PCN and that there was no reason for the Council to refuse the payment.
Did the local authority apply the online payment towards the PCN?
No they did not. In Para 7, the Ombudsman states that the Council’s acceptance of Ms A’s payment had not caused her an injustice as the payment had been allocated towards the cost of the PCN and the bailiff fee incurred in pursuing it.
Ms A complained that she had not received any of the statutory notices.
The Council confirmed that all notices had been sent to the registered keepers address and; given that Royal Mail had not returned the letters as undelivered, the notices were deemed to have been served (Para 6).
The Ombudsman would not investigate the complaint as there was not enough evidence of fault with the council’s actions.
Commentary from Bailiff Advice
If you have received a query about a letter or a visit that you have received from a bailiff, you can send a question to Bailiff Advice in confidence, using our online Enquiry Form. Alternatively, you can contact our free helpline. Details are on our Contact page.