A guide as regards the process of receiving a Summons and Liability Order for the non-payment of National Non-Domestic (Business) Rates.
The business rates bill is sent to the companies address and usually if your business rates are not paid on time the council will send you a reminder notice asking for payment. If you do not pay within the time period specified they will send you a final notice. The process is different from the usually business to business debt where the time to pay is often longer unless non-payment is or has been an issue in the past.
The recipient can offer to pay or negotiate a payment plan before the council apply for a summons to be issued. The summons is the action which precedes a liability order. Once the liability order is issued it means that you will have to pay the whole amount due for that year as specified on the final reminder, which may include any arrears from previous years.
If your council decides to apply for a summons and one is issued a court date is arranged for a hearing on the summons. It should be noted that the council can make you pay for the costs incurred by them for obtaining the summons, and the following liability order. So before the court hearing it is advisable to contact the council to explain the situation or dispute the bill if you believe it to be incorrect.
If you cannot make contact with the council make notes of dates and times you have attempted to, also use email so if needed you can present this as evidence at the court if required at a later date. If all is well and you do initiate contact with the councils relevant department to explain your situation with regards to why you have not paid, or are disputing the amount owed negotiations can then then take place. The council can cancel the summons if they wish and a payment plan can be put in place, or the council may decide to accept the reasons given for disputing the bill and ament the amount owed.
This court date for the liability hearing is another opportunity for you to put your case forward as to why you have not paid the bill. The reasons given by the individual or company will be specific to the situation.
The council will state that you do not have to attend the magistrate’s court regarding the summons if you do not wish to do so. If the recipient of the bill decides not to attend the court and represent themselves, or engage with a solicitor to represent them then, a liability order will be automatically issued in their absence. You may then have missed an opportunity to explain the situation as to why the bill has not been paid and to ask for an appropriate plan or arrangement. All efforts should be made to attend the court and to explain the specific situation and ask for more time if needed, or a payment plan to settle the amount outstanding, or an amended bill if successfully disputed.
Once the liability order is issued the council can then notify and instruct a bailiff company on their behalf to recover the dept. The bailiff company concerned can then chase the debt and make a charge on you for the costs of doing so on top of the original debt, which may include any other costs incurred by the council concerned while pursuing the debt.
The course of action used by some councils’ can seem to have been refined to meet their specific needs as regards budgetary pressures, in order to pay for the services they provide to the local community. It should be remembered that they also have obligations and debts or bills to pay themselves. However the time frame councils’ can sometimes work within can seem unduly fast in recovering the debt for the non-payment of National Non-Domestic (Business) Rates.
A guide to a Bailiffs Enforcement Procedure.
If your council should apply and obtain a liability order you should receive a letter of enforcement before a visit from a bailiff appointed by the council to recover the business rates owed on their behalf. The bailiff who visits the company or individual is sometimes self-employed and sometimes works on a commission basis. The bailiff company itself may be paid an appropriate amount for the work undertaken by the council. The bailiff company may have many cases referred to it and the bailiffs will often pursue larger debts first or ones they believe may be paid quickly.
The larger debts can pay more commission to the bailiff and certain premises are easier to enter than others. The bailiffs are regulated by laws and follow guidelines they are also responsible to their creditors, in this case the council concerned who have employed or appointed them to recover the debt. The council will pass on their information on the debtor to the enforcement company once the liability order has been obtained. The council are responsible for instructing the enforcement agency for whom the bailiff works. The bailiff must act proportionately and take into account the circumstances of the debtor. Often it falls on the debtor to make the bailiff aware of the specific situation and any issues surrounding non-payment if the council have not already done so.
The process begins with a letter of enforcement (Notice of Enforcement) from the bailiff demanding payment within a certain time frame. It is expected that the debtor then contacts the bailiff via the details on the letter to arrange payment of the monies due. There will be a fee for the letter added to the overall debt. At this point the bailiff may be approached for a payment plan but they may still demand full payment. If you are unsuccessful in negotiations with the bailiff or are unable to pay the debt off in full the bailiff will return to levy any goods or assets the company possesses.
To carry out a levy the bailiff has to enter the premises and list any goods of value to take in order to sell usually at an auction to recover the debt. If the bailiff physically enters the property finding assets that can be sold and carries out the levy then they will be able to take control of those goods or give you another chance to pay. However at this stage you will have incurred more costs/fees for the visits and the levy should they have gained entry. These fees are then added to the overall debt and will be taken first from any profit of the sale of the controlled goods. At this point you may be able to negotiate a controlled goods agreement to pay the debt before the goods are taken and sold.
Bailiffs can only take goods belonging to the company if limited but if the company is privately owned they may expand their search for assets to the owner’s belongings. They can visit the individual’s home and if they can enter they can levy suitable assets.
Once the levying process is complete the bailiff can take control of the goods and remove them ready for sale. If they cannot remove the goods once the levy has taken place they can use appropriate force via a notice to re-enter the premises. Once the goods are taken you will get seven days’ notice before they are sold. The costs of removal of the goods and storage are again passed onto the debtor and monies outstanding will increase accordingly. If your belongings do not sell and the bailiff cannot find enough assets to recover the debt or they cannot gain entry to levy they may take goods from a public highway a car or other vehicle.
If they clamp the vehicle they must give you a notice of immobilisation, they can also apply for a court warrant for permission to visit other premises where they believe goods are stored or pass the debt back to the council. If the bailiff cannot gain entry the council can go back to court it could be seen that it is a wilful act and culpable neglect so as not to pay the debt and with business rates this could end up in imprisonment with a sentence of 90 days for each liability order issued.
Now the council may believe the debt is worth pursuing, if not they may write it off. If they make a decision to still peruse the debt you will receive a warning letter and they may take action in a county court and obtain a county court judgement. They may then decide to go for bankruptcy proceedings whereby you will receive a statuary demand.
However if the bailiff cannot gain entry to the premises or residence depending on the company limited of private, the council can go back to court and it could be seen that it is a wilful act and culpable neglect so as not to pay the debt, and with business rates this could end up in imprisonment with a sentence of 90 days for each liability order issued.