Bristow and Sutor – What To Do If You Owe Council Tax, Business Rates or Penalty Charge Notice Debt
Established in 1979, Bristow and Sutor are a UK-based firm of Enforcement Agents. Their main concern is collecting debts of behalf of local authorities, including unpaid council tax, business rates and Penalty Charge Notices.
Bristow and Sutor are members of CIVEA – the Civil Enforcement Association, The Institute of Revenues Rating and Valuation (IRRV) and the Credit Services Association (CSA).
Why Have Bristow And Sutor Been In Touch With Me?
Bristow and Sutor are a debt collection agency, so if they’ve been in touch, it’s probably because you owe money. Bristow and Sutor collect three different types of debt – council tax debt, non-domestic rates and Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs).
I Don’t Think I Owe This Debt – What Should I Do?
Occasionally, mistakes are made. If you have a dispute about your Council Tax or Non-Domestic Rates debt, you will need to take this up directly with the Council. You’ll need to explain why you think you don’t owe the debt and provide any supporting evidence.
If you wish to dispute a Penalty Charge Notice, you should contact Bristow and Sutor as soon as possible by phone or post.
Unpaid Council Tax
Bristow and Sutor collect unpaid Council Tax on behalf of local councils. If you have received contact from Bristow and Sutor in relation to a Council Tax debt, you will already have received several reminder letters from your local council and a Magistrates Court will have decided you owe this money. The court will have issued a liability order.
What Is A Council Tax Liability Order?
If you haven’t paid your Council Tax bill, a Magistrates Court can issue a Council Tax Liability Order which enables local authorities to take legal action against you to recover the money owed. Local authorities can instruct Enforcement Agents, such as Bristow and Sutor, to collect the unpaid tax.
Non-Domestic Rates (also known as Business Rates) are a tax on commercial property. If you haven’t paid the Non-Domestic Rates due to your local council, you will have been sent several payment reminders through the post.
If you’ve been contacted by Bristow and Sutor in relation to non-payment of Rates, a Magistrates Court will have already decided you owe this money and issued a liability order, enabling Bristow and Sutor to collect the debt.
Penalty Charge Notices
Penalty Charge Notices are penalties for parking contraventions and other traffic related penalties issued by councils. You could receive a Penalty Charge Notice for parking your vehicle in the wrong place or for too long, or for violating traffic rules, for example by driving in a bus lane outside the permitted times.
If you do not pay your Penalty Charge Notice(s), the Traffic Enforcement Centre, part of the County Court, can issue a Warrant of Control against you.
But I Wasn’t Driving The Vehicle At The Time – Can I Appeal?
Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs) are issued to the registered keeper of the vehicle which they relate to, regardless of the driver. So, even if someone else has parked incorrectly or violated the traffic rules, unfortunately you are responsible for the PCN, as the registered keeper of the vehicle.
Bristow and Sutor’s Fees
Enforcement Agent’s fees are governed by the Taking Control of Goods (Fees) Regulations 2014. Bristow and Sutor have three fees which you may have to pay:
- £75 Compliance stage fee – added to every case as soon as Bristow and Sutor become involved.
- £235 Enforcement stage fee – added as soon as a visit is made for a case (or cases) up to a value of £1,500. If the case(s) are above £1,500 a further charge of 7.5% of the debt above £1,500 is applied.
- £110 Sale or Disposal fee – added as soon as a visit is made for the purpose of removing controlled goods for a case (or cases) up to a value of £1,500. For cases above £1,500, a further 7.5% of the debt above £1,500 is added.
In addition to the above costs, you may also have to pay locksmiths’ charges, storage charges or auctioneer fees.
What Will Happen If I Don’t Pay?
Stage 1: Compliance Notice
Bristow and Sutor will send a Compliance Notice – this usually gives you 7 days from the date of the letter to come to a payment arrangement. At this point, you will also have to pay £75 (Bristow & Sutor’s fees) on top of any money you owe to the local authority. You mustn’t ignore a Compliance Notice – if you do, it is likely that further enforcement action will be taken against you.
Stage 2: Notice of Enforcement
If you are unable to come to a payment arrangement within 7 days of receipt of the Compliance Order, Bristow and Sutor can issue you a Notice of Enforcement. A Notice of Enforcement acts as a warning that Enforcement Agents are preparing to take action to recover the money owed, usually by seizing goods.
At this stage, you will become liable for the £235 enforcement stage fee, added to the rest of your debt. A Notice of Enforcement gives you another 7-day window to settle your debt or make a payment agreement, before Enforcement Agents can return to take your goods.
Stage 3: Controlled Goods Agreement
If you still haven’t paid, Enforcement Agents will return with a Controlled Goods Agreement to make an inventory of your goods which can be seized and sold to raise the money needed to settle your debt. Signing a Controlled Goods Agreement will give you a further 7 days to repay your debts in full, including any fees added. If you don’t manage to pay, however, Enforcement Agents will return to remove the goods.
What Can Bristow And Sutor Take?
Bristow and Sutor can take goods to sell at auction to raise money to cover the amount you owe. Bristow and Sutor can take luxury items such as televisions, games consoles, jewellery and vehicles. There are some items which they can’t take, for example:
- Cooker, microwave, fridge and washing machine
- Pets or assistance dogs
- Beds and bedding
- Tools, books or equipment needed for your job or study, up to a value of £1,350
- Goods on hire purchase if the final payment has not yet been made
- A vehicle displaying a disabled badge
- A vehicle essential for your job, worth less than £1,350
- Medical equipment
- One telephone
Can Bristow & Sutor Take Money From My Wages?
Yes. If you do not pay your Council Tax, Bristow and Sutor may be asked to attach your earnings. This means your employer will have to deduct payments directly from you wages each week or month, in order to repay your debt.
Can Scottishtrustdeed.co.uk Help?
If you are having problems with Bristow and Sutor, you can seek advice from Scottishtrustdeed.co.uk. We are professional debt specialists who can assess your circumstances and help with a number of debt management solutions.
How To Complain
Bristow and Sutor require all complaints to be submitted in writing and provide a complaint form on their website. Completed forms should be sent to:
Bristow & Sutor
What’s the difference between bailiffs and enforcement agents?
There isn’t one. New legislation came into force on the 6th April 2014, which changed the name of ‘bailiffs’ to ‘enforcement agents’.
Can I make a part-payment to stop enforcement action?
Enforcement action will usually continue unless the debt is paid in full, including any additional costs you have incurred. You may, however, be able to prevent enforcement action if you agree a payment arrangement with Bristow & Sutor and stick to it.
Can’t I just make payments straight to the Council?
No, you must pay Bristow and Sutor. You can’t avoid paying Bristow and Sutor’s fees by paying direct, and you risk the Council applying your payment to the wrong debt, therefore not preventing Bristow and Sutor’s action against you.