HOUSEHOLDERS and business owners in South Lakeland are being warned not to get caught out by increased enforcement fees from next month if they are in arrears with their council tax or business rates.

A change in national legislation means enforcement agents are replacing bailiffs from April 6 under the Taking Control of Goods (Fee) Regulations 2014.

South Lakeland District Council (SLDC) says if a debt remains unpaid, it will ‘have no option’ but to pass it on to an enforcement agent. The authority says this will mean a significant change in the fees being charged for debt collection.

The new fixed fees that enforcement agents can recover from a debtor are:

  •  £75 fee as soon as the council passes an unpaid account to the enforcement agents.
  • A further £235, plus an additional 7.5 per cent of the debt if you owe over £1,500, if a visit becomes necessary.
  • A further £110, plus an additional 7.5 per cent of the debt if you owe over £1,500, at the sale or disposal stage.

This means that within two weeks of a debt being passed to the enforcement agents, the fees incurred could rise to in excess of £310. These fees are set within the new legislation and are not negotiable.

An SLDC spokesperson said: “We urge residents and businesses to contact us immediately if they are having difficulty in paying their council tax or business rates, so that we can advise them about the best way to meet their payments, to try and avoid having to pass the debt on for collection.

“We would like to reassure residents that we will do everything possible to resolve the matter before passing the debt to an enforcement agent.

“However, if the debt remains unpaid, we will have no option and the debt will be passed on to the enforcement agent for collection and from April 6 the new fees will be incurred.”

Call SLDC on 01539-793245 or 0845-050-4434 for advice.