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  • FIRST POST
    • bunglebus
    • By bunglebus 23rd Feb 17, 4:20 PM
    • 16Posts
    • 15Thanks
    bunglebus
    Equita and council tax
    • #1
    • 23rd Feb 17, 4:20 PM
    Equita and council tax 23rd Feb 17 at 4:20 PM
    Hi,
    I am aware there are multiple threads regarding Equita and their conduct, but I thought I would start my own thread for clarity and to seek advice.

    My wife had two outstanding Council Tax bills, due to her flatmate at the time not paying. As they were both liable but the old flatmate has disappeared, she has been given the full bill.

    Last year letters started arriving from Equita regarding this and also one of their Bailiffs started putting enforcement notices in our letterbox. I paid one of the two accounts off on the proviso that they were to take £50 a month from my wife to pay off the other account. The bailiff then became extremely difficult to contact and therefore didn't take any more money. Because we had "failed to pay" the Enforcement Notices started to appear again. We have attempted on several occasions to contact Equita via their website without response.

    This is a copy of a letter sent to them today which will save me a lot of writing;

    Following my telephone call to your Northampton office on 22/02/17, I need to express my frustration and disgust at the handling of this account.
    I am dealing with this matter on behalf of my wife, N***** S**** (Nee N*****), who is now disabled following several surgeries over the last few years, and now has to take multiple types of medication to regulate her pain.
    On Friday the 17th of February we discovered an Enforcement Notice when we returned home in the evening. As we have had a long and problematic experience with your company I decided it would be best dealt with in person, so on Monday morning (20th of Feb) I drove to your office at 42-44 Henry Street in Northampton, where I was denied entry and so had to discuss this sensitive matter on a public street. The man I initially spoke to (he did not give his name), and subsequently Chris Sleafer who was previously dealing with this account, dismissed my concerns offhand without any checks into my concerns, and essentially said both my wife and I were lying regarding the difficulty we have both had in getting anyone to return our phone calls or respond to messages sent via your website.
    Having returned home I felt I had no choice but to pay the £549.79 which was stated as the total balance due on the Enforcement Notice, which I did via your automated system.
    On Tuesday (21st of Feb) I was at my father's house to celebrate his birthday and received a call from M. Scott who stated there was a further £185 compliance fee to pay because the £549.76 had not been paid within 48 hours. Obviously I was less than impressed with this latest demand, but as I did not have the paperwork to hand, I felt once again obliged to pay. On my return home I checked the Enforcement Notice, which does NOT state anywhere that there is a 48 hour limit on payments. Having found the notice Friday PM, attended your office Monday AM and made payment in full on my return home, I feel this is completely unacceptable conduct on your behalf. During my phone call to your office this morning I questioned the total due and any fees, your representative stated the total amount does not include enforcement fees - how can the total not be inclusive? This is misleading at best, and following that logic does not add up to the figures on the Enforcement Notice anyway.
    In an attempt to get an explanation of charges levied against us, I called M. Scott on the 22nd and 23rd of February and left voicemail messages on both occasions. It does not come as a surprise to me that at the time of writing he has not returned my calls. I also emailed info@equita.co.uk on the 22nd of February. Once again, no response from you.
    Due to Mr. Sleafer especially not returning our calls in the past, we were unable to continue making payments of £50 PCM as previously agreed (I have detailed some of the calls and texts made below, unfortunately as my wife changed from pay as you go to a monthly contract during this period we do not currently have every call listed, however I understand this information can be obtained from our phone company).
    There was also a problem with the £50 PCM payment, as you took payment for this amount from my credit card without authority on 08/10/16 following my payment of £620.31 on 07/10/16 to clear account reference 1********. The £50 was to be collected from my wife, again you did NOT have authority to charge this amount to my credit card.

    I will require a full breakdown of charges on both of these accounts, with explanations of charges and fees etc.

    I will also require records of your attempts to contact either myself or my wife.

    I await your response to this letter, bearing in mind that on multiple occasions, your company has failed to return my calls or answer messages submitted via your website. I would also expect you to bear in mind that due to my wife’s ongoing health problems, we currently have to live off of Income Support, Carer’s Allowance and disability benefits. I understand that as my wife is registered as disabled she may be classed as vulnerable, in which case the accounts should have been returned to Bedford Council rather than bailiffs attending. I have contacted Bedford council and made them aware of our concerns, and they will be receiving a copy of this letter as you are agents acting on their behalf.

    I am also seeking legal advice on this matter.




    R**** S****



    I haven't included all the phone call/text/payment proof obviously.

    So, have I done enough?
    There are two accounts with sequential numbers, I understand they should only charge one lot of fees if they're dealing with multiple debts?
    They have never been in my house, they have noted vehicle registration numbers on letters put through the door, but as blue badge holders they can't take them anyway..?
    Every letter or notice we've had has differed in amounts shown, nothing seems to add up.
    Can they charge the £185 for not paying within 48 hours?
    Should they have been doing anything other than passing the debt back to the council after being informed my wife is now disabled?
    I have sent that letter to Bedford Council as ultimately Equita are acting on their behalf.
    I will be going to a local advice centre on Monday but thought I'd ask here too as Equita and their behaviour seems to be a hot topic.
    There's probably loads I've not asked but all informed advice will be gratefully received.

    Thanks
    Last edited by bunglebus; 23-02-2017 at 6:54 PM.
Page 1
  • National Debtline
    • #2
    • 23rd Feb 17, 4:42 PM
    • #2
    • 23rd Feb 17, 4:42 PM
    Hi

    They can initially add one £75 compliance fee per bill when they're first passed the debt. They can then only add one enforcement fee of £235 if multiple bills are being collected by the same bailiff, and that bailiff has actually attended your property. The £185 doesn’t seem to make sense.

    You’re right that they can’t touch a vehicle with a blue badge displayed. The council should call debt back due to the vulnerability issue, and I think you should chase this up with them. I would suggest telephoning the council to move things along more quickly.

    If you want to complain further you could also complain to the bailiff trade association CIVEA -

    www.civea.co.uk

    James
    @natdebtline
    We work as money advisers for National Debtline and have specific permission from MSE to post to try to help those in debt. Read more information on National Debtline in MSE's Debt Problems: What to do and where to get help guide. If you find you're struggling with debt and need further help try our online advice tool My Money Steps
    • z1a
    • By z1a 23rd Feb 17, 6:45 PM
    • 426 Posts
    • 337 Thanks
    z1a
    • #3
    • 23rd Feb 17, 6:45 PM
    • #3
    • 23rd Feb 17, 6:45 PM
    OP, delete the reference # at the bottom of your letter.
    • bunglebus
    • By bunglebus 23rd Feb 17, 7:11 PM
    • 16 Posts
    • 15 Thanks
    bunglebus
    • #4
    • 23rd Feb 17, 7:11 PM
    • #4
    • 23rd Feb 17, 7:11 PM
    Thanks for the replies, I have deleted the reference number. I have looked at the Civea website and it would appear that I have to complain to Equita first (done).
    More worryingly it also says that Equita could destroy all records relating to these accounts as they are now paid in full.
    • sourcrates
    • By sourcrates 23rd Feb 17, 7:12 PM
    • 10,901 Posts
    • 10,563 Thanks
    sourcrates
    • #5
    • 23rd Feb 17, 7:12 PM
    • #5
    • 23rd Feb 17, 7:12 PM
    Money talks where these people are concerned, that's all they care about.

    So get on to the council, explain your situation, get them to recall the accounts from equita.

    Complain to the bailiffs trade association as well, as advised above, make life difficult for them.

    Unfortunately not all bayliffs are as amiable as the guys portrayed on the TV.
    I'm a Board Guide on the Debt-Free Wannabe, Credit File And Ratings, and
    Bankruptcy And Living With It, boards. I'm a volunteer to help the boards run smoothly, and I can move and merge posts there.
    Board guides are not moderators and don't read every post. If you spot an abusive or illegal post then please report it to forumteam@moneysavingexpert.com. Any views are mine and not the official line of MoneySavingExpert.com.

    For free debt advice, contact either : Stepchange, National Debtline, or, CAB.
    For Legal advice see : http://legalbeagles.info/
    • bunglebus
    • By bunglebus 24th Feb 17, 3:18 PM
    • 16 Posts
    • 15 Thanks
    bunglebus
    • #6
    • 24th Feb 17, 3:18 PM
    • #6
    • 24th Feb 17, 3:18 PM
    I've called the bailiff four times and left voicemail, he's just text me saying as the account's closed and because of the way he was spoken to before (bless his sensitive soul) I have to write to them - sent signed for 1st class this morning . I never swore or threatened him, but I did give him a hard time about the fees and the behaviour of his company. I also told him that I though he and everyone who does his job is scum. Nothing personal but their conduct is disgraceful and I expressed my opinion about it.
    I also took a copy of the letter into the council offices and got a receipt for it.
    Anything else I should be doing?
  • National Debtline
    • #7
    • 24th Feb 17, 4:44 PM
    • #7
    • 24th Feb 17, 4:44 PM
    I think it’s a case of waiting for responses to your complaints now. Keep us updated.

    James
    @natdebtline
    We work as money advisers for National Debtline and have specific permission from MSE to post to try to help those in debt. Read more information on National Debtline in MSE's Debt Problems: What to do and where to get help guide. If you find you're struggling with debt and need further help try our online advice tool My Money Steps
    • Herbie21
    • By Herbie21 25th Feb 17, 6:33 PM
    • 746 Posts
    • 939 Thanks
    Herbie21
    • #8
    • 25th Feb 17, 6:33 PM
    • #8
    • 25th Feb 17, 6:33 PM
    Hi,

    I await your response to this letter, bearing in mind that on multiple occasions, your company has failed to return my calls or answer messages submitted via your website.

    I would also expect you to bear in mind that due to my wife’s ongoing health problems, we currently have to live off of Income Support, Carer’s Allowance and disability benefits. I understand that as my wife is registered as disabled she may be classed as vulnerable, in which case the accounts should have been returned to Bedford Council rather than bailiffs attending.

    There are two accounts with sequential numbers, I understand they should only charge one lot of fees if they're dealing with multiple debts?

    Can they charge the £185 for not paying within 48 hours?
    Should they have been doing anything other than passing the debt back to the council after being informed my wife is now disabled?
    I have sent that letter to Bedford Council as ultimately Equita are acting on their behalf.

    I will be going to a local advice centre on Monday but thought I'd ask here too as Equita and their behaviour seems to be a hot topic.
    There's probably loads I've not asked but all informed advice will be gratefully received.

    Thanks
    Originally posted by bunglebus
    I would suggest that don't rely upon telephone conversations with the bailiff or company and instead, you need to obtain confirmation in writing of the fees that have been charged.

    A couple of points that are important to take into consideration:

    There is a slight misconception about 'multiple' fees. A compliance fee of £75 is applied to EACH account. However, if for example a Liability Order were passed to Equita in September, and another Liability Order passed to them in December, it would be permissible to charge two separate enforcement fees (one for a visit around September and another for the December visit.

    Secondly, it is not correct that cases of vulnerability should be returned to the council. Instead, most enforcement companies would pass 'vulnerable' accounts to their in-house Welfare Departments.
    Last edited by Herbie21; 09-04-2017 at 11:21 AM.
    • bunglebus
    • By bunglebus 4th Mar 17, 9:19 AM
    • 16 Posts
    • 15 Thanks
    bunglebus
    • #9
    • 4th Mar 17, 9:19 AM
    • #9
    • 4th Mar 17, 9:19 AM
    I have had a letter from Equita, I won't quote it verbatim but they have said they will be refunding £235 charged when the second bailiff got involved "in order to bring this matter to a [sic] amicable close".

    They have not given me a breakdown of the charges made so I am writing back again requesting them, I haven't agreed to or declined the £235. I suspect they know they should have only charged it once but I'm still after answers about the £185 "Compliance Fee" and the £50 they took from my credit card without my permission.

    Still, £235 is better than a punch on the nose.
    Last edited by bunglebus; 14-03-2017 at 10:11 AM.
    • bunglebus
    • By bunglebus 28th Mar 17, 8:53 AM
    • 16 Posts
    • 15 Thanks
    bunglebus
    I wrote back to Equita, again requesting a breakdown of payments and charges on the accounts - they signed for it on the 7th of March but are yet to respond - a call to their customer team saw me politely fobbed off with "someone will contact you next week". I think three weeks is long enough to find the information I want so I'll be pestering them regularly.
    • sourcrates
    • By sourcrates 28th Mar 17, 9:58 AM
    • 10,901 Posts
    • 10,563 Thanks
    sourcrates
    I wrote back to Equita, again requesting a breakdown of payments and charges on the accounts - they signed for it on the 7th of March but are yet to respond - a call to their customer team saw me politely fobbed off with "someone will contact you next week". I think three weeks is long enough to find the information I want so I'll be pestering them regularly.
    Originally posted by bunglebus
    Sone of these companies are still a law unto themselves.

    Stricter regulation to bring them into line has (mostly) failed to do so.

    I believe further changes are in the pipeline.

    The key is to be the biggest thorn in there side you can be, that will most likely yeild the best result for you.
    I'm a Board Guide on the Debt-Free Wannabe, Credit File And Ratings, and
    Bankruptcy And Living With It, boards. I'm a volunteer to help the boards run smoothly, and I can move and merge posts there.
    Board guides are not moderators and don't read every post. If you spot an abusive or illegal post then please report it to forumteam@moneysavingexpert.com. Any views are mine and not the official line of MoneySavingExpert.com.

    For free debt advice, contact either : Stepchange, National Debtline, or, CAB.
    For Legal advice see : http://legalbeagles.info/
    • bunglebus
    • By bunglebus 8th Apr 17, 11:29 AM
    • 16 Posts
    • 15 Thanks
    bunglebus
    I called them again on 03/04 and the woman I spoke to said she'd send out the information I wanted! Mind you it hasn't arrived. I did ask why K. Fowler hadn't come back to me and she just said she works for a different department and she'd put a note against my file.
    I did a bit of Googling and worked out Mrs. Fowler's first name, then found how Equita's email addresses are formatted and sent her an email directly - it didn't bounce so I assume it got there. Once again I await their response...
    • bunglebus
    • By bunglebus 12th Apr 17, 7:52 PM
    • 16 Posts
    • 15 Thanks
    bunglebus
    Letter received from Equita a month after I wrote to them detailing the charges against one account, but not the other, no list of payments received, nothing about them charging my credit card without authority and no explanation of the spurious £185 "Compliance Fee".
    I am writing back with a Subject Access Request against everything they've avoided discussing.
    • Herbie21
    • By Herbie21 20th Apr 17, 9:23 AM
    • 746 Posts
    • 939 Thanks
    Herbie21
    Hi

    They can initially add one £75 compliance fee per bill when they're first passed the debt. They can then only add one enforcement fee of £235 if multiple bills are being collected by the same bailiff, and that bailiff has actually attended your property. The £185 doesn’t seem to make sense.

    You’re right that they can’t touch a vehicle with a blue badge displayed. The council should call debt back due to the vulnerability issue, and I think you should chase this up with them. I would suggest telephoning the council to move things along more quickly.

    If you want to complain further you could also complain to the bailiff trade association CIVEA -

    www.civea.co.uk

    James
    @natdebtline
    Originally posted by National Debtline
    James,

    Can I just correct you on a couple of points:

    Complaints cannot be made to CIVEA unless they have first been through the enforcement companies complaints procedure.

    Secondly, if a vehicle is displaying a Blue Badge, it does not mean that the council should take the debt back. What normally happens, is that the enforcement company will bring the debt back in house to be administered by their respective Welfare Departments.
  • National Debtline
    James,

    Can I just correct you on a couple of points:

    Complaints cannot be made to CIVEA unless they have first been through the enforcement companies complaints procedure.

    Secondly, if a vehicle is displaying a Blue Badge, it does not mean that the council should take the debt back. What normally happens, is that the enforcement company will bring the debt back in house to be administered by their respective Welfare Departments.
    Originally posted by Herbie21
    Thanks Herbie.

    I was basing the blue badge comment on the fact that the National Standards say creditors should be prepared to take control of the case should the debtor be identified as vulnerable, and the good practice guidance for collection of council tax says the council should be prepared to call the action back from bailiffs at any time, where there is a case to do so. It makes sense that in house Welfare Departments would deal with these kinds of cases though.

    I also appreciate that a blue badge doesn’t necessarily mean that someone is vulnerable, and my post wasn’t worded very well.

    James
    @natdebtline
    Last edited by National Debtline; 20-04-2017 at 10:46 AM.
    We work as money advisers for National Debtline and have specific permission from MSE to post to try to help those in debt. Read more information on National Debtline in MSE's Debt Problems: What to do and where to get help guide. If you find you're struggling with debt and need further help try our online advice tool My Money Steps
    • Herbie21
    • By Herbie21 20th Apr 17, 11:37 PM
    • 746 Posts
    • 939 Thanks
    Herbie21
    Thanks Herbie.

    I was basing the blue badge comment on the fact that the National Standards say creditors should be prepared to take control of the case should the debtor be identified as vulnerable, and the good practice guidance for collection of council tax says the council should be prepared to call the action back from bailiffs at any time, where there is a case to do so. It makes sense that in house Welfare Departments would deal with these kinds of cases though.

    I also appreciate that a blue badge doesn’t necessarily mean that someone is vulnerable, and my post wasn’t worded very well.

    James
    @natdebtline
    Originally posted by National Debtline
    James, thank you for your interesting reply.

    The difficulty with a vehicle displaying a Blue Badge, is that the regulations provide that the vehicle should be considered exempt as it may be used for transporting a disabled person....and many times, the disabled person may not even be the debtor.
    • bunglebus
    • By bunglebus 23rd May 17, 10:01 AM
    • 16 Posts
    • 15 Thanks
    bunglebus
    OK an update - I have written to Equita three times now, the last letter included a Subject Access Request regarding any details they had on file regarding myself and my wife.
    They have ignored this for over 40 days (signed for on 14/04/17).
    What is my best next course of action? Looking at the ICO as they enforce the SAR but also any bailiff governing bodies, associations etc?
    • CIS
    • By CIS 23rd May 17, 11:55 AM
    • 9,813 Posts
    • 5,614 Thanks
    CIS
    OK an update - I have written to Equita three times now, the last letter included a Subject Access Request regarding any details they had on file regarding myself and my wife.
    They have ignored this for over 40 days (signed for on 14/04/17).
    What is my best next course of action? Looking at the ICO as they enforce the SAR but also any bailiff governing bodies, associations etc?
    Originally posted by bunglebus
    Raise a formal complaint with them and the council - most further routes are out consideration until you have raised a formal complaint first and tried to resolve the process through that route.

    Once a formal complaint has been raised then you get access to the LGO, CIVEA etc

    Craig
    I no longer work in Council Tax Recovery as I'm now a self employed Council Tax advisor and consultant with my own Council Tax consultancy business. My views are my own reading of the law and you should always check with the local authority in question.
    • CIS
    • By CIS 23rd May 17, 11:58 AM
    • 9,813 Posts
    • 5,614 Thanks
    CIS
    With regards to vulnerability, which was raised in your earlier posts, there is no specific definition of what it is - the enforcement agent and the local authority are expected to make that judgement and act on that judgement. The final call on 'vulnerability' is theirs to make.

    Craig
    I no longer work in Council Tax Recovery as I'm now a self employed Council Tax advisor and consultant with my own Council Tax consultancy business. My views are my own reading of the law and you should always check with the local authority in question.
    • bunglebus
    • By bunglebus 22nd Jun 17, 10:29 AM
    • 16 Posts
    • 15 Thanks
    bunglebus
    OK, yesterday I got a letter back from Equita, apologising for the delay and including a full breakdown of all the fees and transactions against the accounts. They have returned my £10 cheque and finally explained the £185 fee which was my main bugbear.
    Essentially it was the £235 enforcement fee, less £50 which had been paid against the account by me. They have already refunded the £235 as it had been charged twice so I am now happy with the explanation of how this was worked out.
    It's just a shame it's taken so much effort and caused so much stress to get to this point.
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