Council tax: Bailiff visit pause to end this weekend – are you in debt? You may be visited

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Council tax debts can be built up overtime and given the economic impact of coronavirus, it is likely that many families are behind on their obligations. Indeed, official figures have revealed that £3.6billion in council tax arrears were built up before the current pandemic even began.

In some instances, bailiffs will be sent in to attempt to retrieve these debts if all other avenues have not generated results.

Before a bailiff visits a property they must give the person involved at least seven days’ notice and debts can be paid within this time frame to stop the visit from taking place.

Having a bailiff visit a home to retrieve a debt can be an unpleasant experience.

The government details that people do not usually have to open their doors to a bailiff or let them in but bailiffs do have the power to take personal items to repay a debt if need be.

These types of visits were halted by the government due to the physical danger associated with coronavirus but this pause will end this weekend.

Under the current schedule, the temporary halting of bailiff visits will end this Sunday, August 23.

The Money Advice Trust noted that with today’s announcement that the government will extend its banning on evictions, it is feasible and possible that the government can also extend the bailiff visit freeze.

As Jane Tully, the Director of External Affairs for the Money Advice Trust, commented: “Today’s last-minute announcement offers short-term relief for private tenants at risk of eviction.

“With the extension of the ban only lasting four weeks, however, the Government should put in place a comprehensive plan to protect these tenants before this extension ends.

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“Meanwhile, concerns over the end of a similar ban on bailiff visits in England and Wales – which is still set to expire this Sunday – remain unaddressed.

“There is a real risk of a surge in bailiff action relating to council tax and other debts over the coming months, which poses both financial and public health risks.

“The government either needs to extend its ban on bailiff visits, or otherwise put in place urgent guidance to ensure people struggling with problem debt are protected from harm.”

It should be noted that where council tax arrears are due, it may be possible to spread repayments over the course of 12 months instead of the usual 10 to reduce the burden.

In some instances, if the debts cannot be paid, a council can get the person’s employer to pay unpaid council tax directly from their wages.

Additionally, council tax debts can also be deducted from the following benefits:

  • Employment and Support Allowance
  • Income Support
  • Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Pension Credit
  • Universal Credit

Universal Credit claimants may be able to pay less in council tax, with the specifics depending on their circumstances and where they live.

The government detail that if claimants are eligible, their council tax bills could be reduced by up to 100 percent.

These discounts can be applied for regardless of whether the claimant owns their home, is renting, is unemployed or is working.

Further guidance and support on council tax can be sought from the government’s website along with other institutions such as the Money Advice Service and Citizens Advice.

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