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Threatened with bailiffs for debts of previous occupant - what to do?

(28 Posts)
Tilia Fri 09-Jan-15 16:01:58

We had tenants in our house for three years while my OH was posted abroad, until last summer. We have had a couple of occasions when someone has been round looking for the tenant (I presume a debt collection person) but I was able to tell them that he doesn't live here now, this is my home, etc, and he went away. Today I got a hand-delivered letter addressed to him (I was out). I opened it as the envelope was plainly not sealed, and there was large red lettering inside. It was a "NOTICE OF InTENTION TO ENTER & SEARCH YOUR PREMISES - REMOVAL NOTICE", some legal blah and "NO FURTHER WARNINGS WILL BE GIVEN". I rang the number of the agent given on the letter, and he said that it was up to me to prove that the man doesn't live here. What? How? Why? I also sent a message to the agency itself (phone calls only go through to an automated payment system). I know that I do not have to let bailiffs into my home even if I were the one who owed money. But I don't want them even to try. How can I stop this stupid company harassing me?

TelephoneIgnoringMachine Fri 09-Jan-15 16:07:47

Assume you let your own hiuse out to tenant on an AST, do you have a copy of this & some confirmation of the termination of tenancy - egg a "checking out" inventory signed by them. Will debt co accept this?

TelephoneIgnoringMachine Fri 09-Jan-15 16:08:58

Supposed to say house not hiuse, and e.g. not egg!

acharmofgoldfinches Fri 09-Jan-15 16:09:25

We had similar.

We were advised to write a note to put on our credit file to say that the previous tenant was nothing to do with us, we had lived here X dates and he had lived here Y dates and we didn't have any contact details for him/this is the forwarding address we had for him.

There was only one big credit agency then, now you'd probably have to send it to half a dozen, but it's worth a try, as it eventually stopped us being harassed.

imip Fri 09-Jan-15 16:15:09

In the past, I've just called up the debt company and told them I don't know who they are and I have no forwarding address. It's been fine. This was about 5 years ago, but we I'd to get it quite a lot as it was a share house before we rented it out.

Tilia Fri 09-Jan-15 17:17:42

Thanks TelephoneIgnoringMachine - we have a checkout inventory, but it wasn't signed by the tenants. Good idea though. What's an AST? That's a TLA with which I am not familiar.

I've been told our tenant's financial worries won't affect us as the bills are in his name - and writing to credit agencies isn't something I feel I should have to do. But thanks for the idea, acharmofgoldfinches.

And imip - the debt company make sure that you can't call them and speak to anyone. Their phone line will only allow you to make automated payments, despite a picture of eager call centre person on the "contact us" page of their website. I've sent an email through their system: "We will try to reply to you as soon as possible but please allow 7-10 working days for a response", so don't expect to get a reply for while.

I was absolutely infuriated by the "Enforcement Agent in Charge" to whom I spoke on his mobile. Why should I have to prove to him that this is my house, occupied by me and my family? Don't these debt collectors have to check with the council etc? I'm paying the council tax, all the utility bills and I'm on the electoral register!

LadySybilLikesSloeGin Fri 09-Jan-15 17:26:33

They sound like a bunch of muppets so you're unlikely to get a reasonable response from them to be honest. You're probably far better off getting in touch with the company who took your ex tenant to court in the first place. Send them a utility bill or something containing your name and address, this should be enough.

They legally can't break into your house. They have to be given access (or they can get access through an open window or open door), then take an inventory of your goods (assuming the debt is actually yours, but it isn't so this doesn't count). They can then gain access to collect the goods if the debtor doesn't pay. It's illegal for a bailiff to enter a home without taking an inventory first unless they have been given access, which is either the householder letting them in or if they gain access through an open door etc. I'd keep everything closed until you have this sorted as they really do sound shit. It's not Equita is it?

listsandbudgets Fri 09-Jan-15 17:28:09

I had this. The woman so far as I know had never lived in my house (let alone during the dates they were seeking the council tax debt for). I phoned a few times and emailed twice stating I was not the person they were looking for. I also emailed the council and they said theyd sort it out.

A week later I had bailiffs on the door step demanding entry. I told them they couldnn't come in and that I'd already told them she didn't live here and so far as I knew never had. I told them if they didn't go I'd call the police and they went. They told me it was up to me to prove she didn't live there and I informed them it was up to them to prove she did which would be impossible since she didn't.

I wrote to the office responsible for council tax copying in the bailiffs and forwarding all previous correspondence and got a full written apology from him. You do need to be quite feisty to get away with my approach probably best to have some identity to show them if they do turn up grin

newyear15 Fri 09-Jan-15 17:41:33

Are you sure the debt agency are legit? They sound pretty dodgy to me. What are they called?

Without a court order they can't do anything - they may threaten but that doesn't mean they are acting legally.

Tilia Fri 09-Jan-15 21:00:14

Thanks all. I have no idea to whom the money is owed, so I can only contact the debt collection company. It says it's for an outstanding Magistrate's Court Fine, but I don't think that's much help. The firm are called "Collectica" - presumably named from the same bucket of silly names that Royal Mail drew from when they misguidedly tried to rebrand themselves as Consignia.

Worryingly, I see the letter says that "The Magistrates [sic] Warrant empowers the Enforcement Agent from Collectica but virtue of [legal blah] to ENTER YOUR PREMISES USING REASONABLE FORCE, EVEN IN YOUR ABSENCE..." (my caps). So perhaps the old rules (this quotes law from 2007) about bailiffs no longer apply.

I really don't want to have to send them my personal details, but I don't want to end up with having to take legal action against them in the event that they cause damage or steal my stuff. Urgh. The automated response to my email did say I could reply, so I may do just that. Perhaps the letter from the building society saying that as we were no longer letting the house they'd stop charging us an extra 1.5% on our mortgage would be sufficient. (AIBU in thinking that this practice - especially when it is not a buy to let - is usurious?)

newyear15 Fri 09-Jan-15 21:22:37

Can you contact the magistrate's court?

Tilia Fri 09-Jan-15 22:15:32

I thought about that, but have no idea which magistrate's court it would be. And try as I might, I can't find that building society letter. So I've sent them the official letter from the British Embassy about our return home, our council tax bill from the end of July and the form from the removals firm about delivering huge amounts of our stuff from overseas in August. And I've said they must desist from attempting to enter my home to steal my possessions to pay someone else's debts, and that they strike from the record any reference to debt collection at this address. Just hope that does it. Now to have a glass of wine and try to lower the blood pressure a bit.

LadySybilLikesSloeGin Fri 09-Jan-15 22:21:58

It's likely to be council tax or parking fines, so may be helpful for you to get in touch with your local council and let them know how obstructive the bailiffs are being. There are contact details for them here though www.collectica.co.uk/contact-us/

newyear15 Fri 09-Jan-15 22:23:27

Bailiffs are not allowed to take somebody else's possessions to clear a debt. If they did they would be in huge trouble. I would go to the consumer action group forum and ask advice there.

EternalBeauPlate Fri 09-Jan-15 22:34:30

Next to your front door keep some photograpic id of yours and also water bill etc in your name to prove who you are and that you live there.

Lalalalandlord Fri 09-Jan-15 22:42:14

If you own the house, tell them to check the Land Registry, the house is owned in your name and then show a bill in your name. Did you have letting agents who did the check out? An email from them saying they returned deposit etc when tenants left. I would go to the trouble of providing this as it sounds like they've got some sort of warrant to enter so I'd make sure you get off their list for definite! Send it by recorded post.

a2011x Fri 09-Jan-15 23:43:17

When you phone them try pressing random numbers every time it asks you a question as usually you go through to a call centre/operator

Anyway, nothing can be taken from you as it's not your debt, if they come do not at any point let them in. If they come have tenancy agreement for previous tenant available and proof of your own identity , in the mean time don't worry about it because you are not responsible for this. Just another thing I've seen plenty of letters like this in my time and they usually come to nothing. Who is the debt with? Hopefully it's just debt collector and nothing to do with high court , either way you will still be fine

a2011x Fri 09-Jan-15 23:45:08

I have had dealings with Collectica in the past and they are nasty and heartless. You can prove your not the person they are looking for quite easily, please don't worry. And remember never ever let them in, ever !

Tilia Sat 10-Jan-15 01:56:46

It's for the best part of £700 so not parking fines. Council tax or utilities I reckon. And as I said, Collectica make sure you can't speak to a real person. I tried all the tricks but it was just "press one to pay the whole bill, press 2 for installments" and "that isn't a recognised answer, enter the reference number." Night night all, and thanks for the support.

Itsgoingtoreindeer Sat 10-Jan-15 09:59:39

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

newyear15 Sat 10-Jan-15 10:05:06

If I were you I would be asking them for a copy of the court order proving that you owe them money. I am sure there are letters online which you could copy for this.

Damnautocorrect Sat 10-Jan-15 10:19:03

Wait til they turn up (don't leave any windows open) don't let them in, just produce your council tax bill and they should be on their way.
I had it all the time for my landlord. It used to make me laugh when they excitedly starting writing reg numbers of cars down to repossess.

If you can get an email address / postal address you may prempt things by sending a copy of your bill. But I'd still expect them to turn up (it all adds to the final bill)

FryOneFatManic Sat 10-Jan-15 17:01:31

Bailiffs regulations changed last year - here is the government webpage.

Bailiffs are now more restricted in theory, but it might take some time for them to actually play ball.

Tilia Sat 10-Jan-15 18:25:55

Thanks FryOne - I've looked at the Citizens' Advice website (sorry, can't leave that possessive apostrophe out, even if they do) and they seem to indicate that it's likely to be the council looking for their tax. Given that their various records records will clearly show that we live here, I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

But they have form in nefarious dealings over council tax. Unbeknown to us, they kept £350 of our overpaid council tax when we went abroad. Then when we returned and said "we are now responsible for council tax at our house", we got a bill which deducted this money from the new bill AND declared that they would start helping themselves to my OH's bank account to pay the rest in installments. So even though we had left our property (whether or not to return at a later stage) they kept his bank records on file for three years and said nothing about hanging on to our money in the meantime.

I think I will phone them on Monday to try to find out if it is them sending the bailiffs. But they will probably refuse to speak to me as I am not the person who owes the money....

LadySybilLikesSloeGin Sat 10-Jan-15 18:50:57

Is your name on the bailiff's letter though or just your address?

It takes a while for the council to take someone to court so it's likely to be last year's council tax. The summons and following letters should have gone to your address though. Do you think there's 2 accounts? It can happen. They set up one account for the old tenant, one account is opened when you go in to say you're now living there but they don't tie the 2 together.

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