CONFERO COLLECTIONS LTD
Enforcement Agent Code Of Practice
1. This code represents the minimum requirement that Confero Collections Ltd expects of its Enforcement Agents. It incorporates the requirements of the codes of practice issued by the Institute of Rating Revenues and Valuation, CIVEA and the National Standards for Enforcement Agents. Clients may well have additional requirements over and above those contained in this document. Some may be agreed in advance with the client and Confero Collections Ltd and take precedence over this document, in which case you will be notified by Confero Collections Ltd. You will also get direct instruction from the Client, usually regarding specific cases, as a part of your routine client contact. You must comply fully with client requirements. If you feel there is any conflict between a client instruction and Confero Collections Ltd’s expectations, call your line manager to discuss your concern. Where you are allowed discretion use your common sense and consult the client if in any doubt.
2. Confero Collections Ltd accept that having been given a mandate by a client they are an agent of the client. As a result you must at all times act in a dignified, polite and correct manner and exercise discretion and fairness.
3. If you are subjected to verbal abuse you must under no circumstances respond to this. You are expected to retain a calm and professional approach at all times and not allow any personal feelings that you may have to interfere with your conduct or judgement.
4. Alcohol must never be consumed whilst you are working.
5. Physical confrontation should be avoided at all costs. If you feel that a breach of the peace is likely then you should always contact the police and if necessary, withdraw until they arrive.
6. You will achieve your objectives far more easily if you are able to display friendly authority. If you are rude, discourteous, patronising etc., you will annoy the defaulter and simply make life more difficult for yourself. Your approach to defaulters should be firm and confident but never arrogant.
7. As a general rule you should always address the defaulter as sir or madam. However, use your common sense. It can be helpful to build up a friendly relationship with people by speaking to them on their own level. Some people may find being addressed as ‘sir / madam’ patronising and the use of surnames or even first names may be more appropriate but always obtain permission before using someone’s first name.
8. Confero Collections Ltd is an equal opportunities and multi racial employer operating in multi racial areas. Racial or sexual harassment or abuse is gross misconduct and any employee found guilty of such will have their employment terminated forthwith. Enforcement Agents must not discriminate unfairly on any grounds including those of age, disability, gender, race, religion or sexual orientation. This applies to everyone you come into contact with – debtors, colleagues, clients and members of the public.
9. Enforcement Agents are required to be presentable and smartly dressed. This does not mean that you are required to wear a suit, shirt and tie on every occasion especially if you are working on Road Traffic penalty charges where you might expect to be clamping vehicles on a regular basis. However, jeans, T-shirts, leather jackets, trainers etc. must never be worn. Protective clothing is provided for Enforcement Agents clamping vehicles or removing goods.
10. Enforcement Agents must at all times carry their certificate and produce this on request.
11. It is a legal requirement that Enforcement Agents acting on behalf of a Council for Council Tax / Business Rates are authorised by the Council to so act and to produce authorisation on request. It is your responsibility to ensure that you carry appropriate authorisation at all times. The debtor has a right to ask to see a copy of the Warrant of Control (Road Traffic debts).
12. On no account must you represent yourself as being an officer of a local authority or court. You should identify yourself as a Enforcement Agent of this company and state the client you are working on behalf of.
13. You must not reveal the purpose of your visit to uninterested third parties. Confidentiality must be maintained at all times and particular care should be taken on business premises to avoid, as far as it is reasonably possible, customers and clients of the defaulter from discovering the purpose of your call. Failure to do so could be a breach of the Data Protection Act and the Human Rights Act (right to privacy).
14. Any documentation left at the premises that has not been handed to the defaulter must be placed in a sealed, addressed envelope.
15. You must withdraw from the premises if the only person present is or appears to be under the age of 18 but if appropriate, do ensure that you enquire as to when the defaulter will be at home. If the only persons present are children under the age of 12 you should withdraw without making enquiries.
There are two potential exemptions to this general rule.
• Very young children who have been left unsupervised and are therefore at risk. You should immediately call the police and remain with the child for its own safety. There is no hard and fast rule as to the age a child has to be before it can be left. It depends on the circumstances, the length of time that the child is left alone and the maturity of the child. Leaving a child for half an hour is a very different matter to leaving them for a whole day. It would certainly apply to any child under six left for more than a few minutes.
• You can drive a car at 17 and a moped at 16. 16 and 17 year olds could therefore receive PCN’s and be subject to Enforcement Agent action. You will be advised on the approach to be adopted on a client- by-client basis.
16. For your own protection act with extreme caution where the defaulter is a lone female. If she becomes distressed or you have any reason to believe that an allegation may follow, always contact the police and request their attendance.
17. All the documentation must be correctly completed in a legible manner. All documents must be signed and carry your signature and your name printed legibly.
18. Stationery must not be altered or added to in any way except to advise of proposed subsequent visits, balances outstanding etc. It is a disciplinary offence to impose fees and charges other than in accordance with legislation and contractual arrangements.
19. It is your responsibility to ensure that goods are handled in such a way that they do not suffer any damage whilst in our possession. Handle them as if they were your own. Goods should not be double stacked. Items that are likely to fall should be secured to the side of the van by ropes. Packing material or blankets should be placed between items to prevent them from getting scratched.
20. A receipt in the form of a Notice that goods have been removed for storage or sale should be given to the defaulter or left at the premises.
21. You must obtain a signature for all the goods before they leave your possession. You will be held responsible for any goods that cannot be accounted for.
22. A receipt must be issued for all payments. Any spoiled receipts must be marked ‘cancelled’ and left in your receipt book. On no account may receipts be amended or altered in any way.
23. All items must be clearly labelled so they can be traced to the defaulter.
All payments must be handed in for banking no later than the following working day.
24. Potentially Vulnerable Groups
The National Standards for Enforcement Agents states that “Enforcement agents / agencies and creditors must recognise that they each have a role in ensuring that the vulnerable and socially excluded are protected. The appropriate use of discretion is essential in every case and no amount of guidance could cover every situation. Therefore the agents have a duty to contact the creditor and report the circumstances in situations where there is potential cause for concern. If necessary, the enforcement agent will advise the creditor if further action is appropriate. The exercise of appropriate discretion is needed, not only to protect the debtor, but also the enforcement agent who should avoid taking action which could lead to accusations of inappropriate behaviour.
The standards then go on to list groups of persons who are potentially vulnerable. This Code of Practice attempts to provide some additional guidance in respect of each of these groups.
24.1 The Elderly
Many elderly people are frail, confused, ill and living off fixed and limited incomes. If it is evident that the defaulter falls into any of these categories no attempt to take control of goods should be made without first consulting the client. However, just because someone is elderly it does not necessarily follow that they are also vulnerable. A great many elderly people are financially secure and both mentally and physically healthy. Use your common sense and proceed with caution where you feel this is justified and check with the client as soon as possible.
24.2 The Disabled
The term disabled can cover a variety of conditions ranging in severity from a bad back to severe disability. Regardless of the severity, you should never take control of goods that are necessary to the person by virtue of their disability. If the disability is anything other than relatively minor you should not take control of goods without consulting the client.
24.3 Long Term Sickness or Serious Illness
No action should be taken if the defaulter is suffering from any condition which is serious, life threatening or may conceivably be made worse by the stress of enforcement action. Note the circumstances and seek guidance from the client.
24.4 Recent Bereavement
How long after the event is ‘recent’? This really depends on the person’s state of mind. If they are obviously still extremely distressed then seek guidance before proceeding even though many weeks may have passed. As a general rule NO action should be taken within two weeks of the bereavement.
24.5 Single Parent Family
As with the elderly this does not automatically place the defaulter in a vulnerable category. Some single parent families are financially secure and may even be wealthy. However, many are dependent on state benefits. You should exercise discretion and consult the client before taking control of goods.
It is possible that the stress of the Enforcement Agent action may lead to premature birth or even miscarriage. If the defaulter is heavily pregnant it is best not to take any chances. In other cases proceed with extreme caution and withdraw if the defaulter starts to become visibly distressed.
24.7 Income Support / Job Seekers Allowance
Those on income support / job seekers allowance are by definition vulnerable as they are living on a subsistence level benefit. Many clients will expect us to withdraw automatically where the defaulter is on IS / JSA especially as alternative remedies are available e.g. attachment of benefits (council tax only). However, this does not apply to all clients and some will sanction the taking control of goods if they think the circumstances are justified. Act in accordance with your knowledge of the client’s policies and use common sense.
24.8 The Unemployed
Again, this does not automatically mean the defaulter is vulnerable. They may have received a substantial redundancy payment. Use your common sense based on your observation of the person’s circumstances and act in line with your knowledge of the client’s requirements.
In any case where serious job losses may result from the taking control of goods from a business it is advisable to consult the client.
24.9 Language Difficulties
If you encounter someone who has little or no English you must withdraw unless you can find a way of communicating with him or her. We have office staff and Enforcement Agents who speak a variety of languages and the office may well be able to assist you. Alternatively, the client may have staff that can assist.
Note: Confero Collections subscribes to the OFT guidance concerning vulnerability. It is our view that a debtor must be able to understand the information being given, retain the information and take into consideration what is being explained. The debtor must also be able to communicate a decision about the information being given. If it is clear that the debtor does not meet these criteria, then he or she must be considered vulnerable and given time to seek the appropriate advice.
25. Goods That May Not Be Removed
The following classes of goods may not be removed: –
Goods necessary for satisfying the basic domestic needs of the defaulter and their family e.g. cooker, fridge, beds, clothing, heating appliances, dining table and sufficient chairs etc. If the defaulter has a cooker and a microwave, then the microwave is probably not a necessity. If they only have either one or the other then whichever it is, is a necessity.
Items clearly identifiable as children’s items.
Tools of trade. A tool of trade is anything needed to carry out a person’s trade employment, profession, vocation etc. A mini cab driver’s car is clearly a tool of trade. A car used for simply commuting to and from work is not. For the professional person who works from home, books, P.C. etc. could constitute tools of trade. NB The restriction on tools of trade does not apply to business rates and has only limited application to commercial rents.
Goods of no intrinsic value the removal of which is intended to cause emotional distress e.g. family photographs.
26. If you have reason to believe that a complaint will be made about you then you must record full details of what transpired and report the matter to the office by no later than the following working day.
27. Legally, an Enforcement Agent may not take control of goods before 6.00 a.m. or after 9.00 p.m, except in respect of businesses when visits may be made at any time whilst the business is trading. A visit can be made to the debtors property on any day of the week.
It is also recommended that the appropriateness of undertaking enforcement should be carefully considered on days of religious or cultural observance for other faiths e.g. Ramadan, Yom Kippur etc. The difficulty here is that it is often far from obvious which faith, if any, a debtor practices until you are already at their door / inside their premises. The best guidance that we feel able to give is that if a religious / cultural event appears to be in the process of observance and / or objections to your presence are raised on these grounds, you seek advice from management and carefully consider whether you should withdraw or at least minimise your intrusion.