You have been contacted by County Durham Outreach and Support
We collect different types of debt on behalf of Durham County Council. These are outlined on the about us page.
Before the debt is passed to us, the council will have issued a number of notices affording opportunities to make contact to discuss and/or challenge the debt. If we have not contacted you about your debt you should continue to direct any queries to Durham County Council.
You disagree with a debt
Contact us and tell us why you do not think you owe the money. Do not ignore the situation, it will not go away and fees will accrue. We want to listen and we want to help.
We can make enquiries with Durham County Council for you, to answer any questions you have, or to verify if the debt is correct. Any fees already incurred will be reviewed on an individual basis.
You’ve received a letter for someone who does not live at your address
Contact us right away or speak to the agent directly if your letter was hand delivered. We will need you to supply proof of your residency, for example, a recent utility bill, in order for our records to be updated.
If you know the addressee please ask him/her to contact us directly, or, let us know their forwarding address.
How we collect debt
If we have contacted you regarding an outstanding debt, the best thing to do is to contact us as soon as possible in the process, so that we can discuss the debt and your circumstances. We will try to reach a mutually acceptable repayment arrangement and to minimise costs. We want to listen and we want to help.
Debt collection service
Our debt collection area of the service specialises in collecting invoices for overpaid housing benefit and invoices for all other goods and services provided by the council (known as sundry debt). County Durham Outreach and Support will not act in its capacity as an enforcement agent to collect this type of debt and will not add any additional costs. These invoices still need to be paid so that goods and services can continue to be provided in the future and overpayments can be repaid to the council.
We will contact you by letter, phone, email, SMS texts (where possible) and doorstep visits to discuss and arrange repayment.
Enforcement Agent service
Enforcement agents collect specific debts and the following process and stages apply to council tax, Non-Domestic Rates (business rates), parking and road traffic debt (PCN), commercial rent arrears (CRAR) and Business Improvement District Scheme levy (BIDs) and are outlined below.
Debts will enter into the Compliance Stage at which point we will try to contact you several times by letter, phone, email and SMS texts (where possible), to discuss the repayment of your debt. A statutory charge of £75.00 is incurred when the first Notice of Enforcement is issued to you, this charge is per debt. All costs applied during this process are specified by the Taking Control of Goods (Fees) Regulations 2014, and not County Durham Outreach and Support (CDOS) or Durham County Council.
If the Compliance Stage is unsuccessful and a mutually agreeable repayment arrangement has not been agreed then the debt will be escalated to the Enforcement Stage.
This means that an enforcement agent will visit your property for payment in full or to assess your goods which can be removed and sold at auction. A statutory fee of £235 will be charged on their first visit. If your debt is over £1,500 the fee will be higher, as an additional 7.5% is charged on the amount over £1,500. For example, if your debt is £1,600 the fee would be £235 + 7.5% of £100 = £242.50, which is rounded up to the nearest pound, therefore £243.
If you have received a hand-delivered letter, call the agent as a matter of urgency on the mobile phone number provided. An enforcement agent’s job is to collect payment of the full amount, including fees, or remove any goods for sale at auction. If you contact the agent, he/she may be able to arrange for you to have some extra time to raise the outstanding amount. It is best to arrange a time for the agent to revisit to discuss your circumstances and your options.
If you do not engage with us and fail to agree repayment of your debt, appropriate goods and valuables may be removed.
This stage is a last resort and the associated costs incur an additional £110. If your debt is over £1,500 the fee will be higher as an additional 7.5% is charged on the amount over £1,500. For example, if your debt is £1,600 the fee would be £110 + 7.5% of £100 = £117.50, which is then rounded up to the nearest pound, therefore £118. We will arrange to remove your goods (vehicle and/or household/personal goods) which can be listed for sale at auction in order to raise funds to clear your debt.
Other reasonable disbursements (where incurred) can be charged, for example, cost of storing goods, cost of hiring a locksmith to gain access to premises, auctioneer’s commission and costs of advertising the sale.
We only remove goods if we have to, it is a reluctant and last resort, but if your debt has reached Sale Stage it is because you have either not contacted us to agree a mutually acceptable repayment arrangement or you have defaulted upon an agreed repayment arrangement.
Our enforcement agent will always assess your circumstances to ensure there are no other suitable options before proceeding with a removal. Please speak to the agent as a matter of urgency.
Calculation of fees
The fees charged throughout the process are statutory and fixed. Durham County Council and County Durham Outreach and Support do not have any input into the fees.
We may be able to offer you an arrangement to pay by instalments if you cannot clear the debt in full.
Access to this option will depend on your circumstances and you will need to provide us with some details about your income and/or employment, along with other requested evidence such as recent payslips or bank statements. If you are in receipt of benefits, we will require proof of your entitlement.
If you miss a payment
Contact us as soon as you realise so we can look into your case and see what we can do to help. It may be possible to restore your repayment arrangement once you have paid any arrears. Each case will be assessed individually and we may need to discuss why payment wasn’t made. Are you suffering financial hardship? Have your circumstances changed? Do you need some debt advice or other help?
Please contact us, we want to listen and we want to help. Avoiding contact will result in escalation of the debt and further fees being incurred.
If you can no longer afford a repayment plan
Contact us so that we can update your information and discuss how we can help you. We will need to complete a financial review and we may need to ask for proof of your current income. We can also signpost you to free independent debt advice and other help and support. All cases will be reviewed independently and based on your individual circumstances.
Free and impartial debt advice
Our staff is trained to signpost anyone who requires assistance and can directly refer you to Citizens Advice County Durham. Please contact us to discuss this or any other help you may need. Alternatively, we can signpost you to Durham County Council or other external partners/agencies who may be able to provide the help you need.
We work alongside a number of local and national organisations who offer free and impartial debt advice.
Other organisations you can contact for help
- Citizens Advice County Durham call 0808 278 7821
- Advice in County Durham
- Step Change Debt Charity call 0800 138 111
- National Debtline call 0808 808 4000
- Money Advice Service call 0300 500 5000
You may also find the debt advice and financial help page on the council’s website helpful.