Monday, 2 December 2019

Bonanza for Council Tenants: Refunds for Water and Sewerage Overcharging


The result of a High Court test case decided last week involving a Kingston-upon-Thames council tenant (Royal Borough of Kingston-upon-Thames v Moss [2019] EWHC 3261 (Ch))
is likely to mean money back for hundreds of thousands of local and housing authority tenants who have been supplied with unmetered water and sewerage services as part of their rent.

In the Kingston case, for over 14 years up to August 2017, an agreement between the Council and Thames Water provided for the council to pay for supplies and to enjoy a voids allowance (to reflect times when properties were vacant) of 3.5% and commission of 9.3% less the voids allowance. The commission was intended to cover the administrative costs of collection and any losses through non-recovery. What were added to tenants’ rent were the gross charges and the reductions were not passed on.  

The High Court judge ruled that as the council was bound by the Water Resale Orders 2001 and 2006, it had charged in excess of the permitted sums and there was a statutory right of tenant recovery. The tenant also had a contractual claim on the basis of a varied standard agreement which obliged him to merely pay ‘the exact amount payable for the property to the water authority.’  

There may be a strong argument that a claim for overcharged services can only go back for six years immediately before the start of civil proceedings for the return of money although the council did not take this point in last week's case.

If Kingston council decides to try and appeal the decision, I will let you know. By the way, the decision follows a similar case against Southwark London Borough Council in 2016 which has so far cost the council £28.6m in overcharges it has repaid to tenants.

STOP PRESS
The council has been refused permission to appeal by the High Court judge. It can now go to the Court of Appeal and seek permission there. It has been granted an extension of time for seeking the Court of Appeal's permission. I will keep you posted as to whether it will follow that through and, if it does, as to the outcome.

Thursday, 28 November 2019

Black Friday and Xmas Shopping Legal Tips

Here goes: pin back your lugholes for how to avoid tears according to the law of England and Wales. And for much more info and template letters and forms, buy my book Breaking Law. No, the pages will not fall out. 
  • If your purchase is defective you are at your legally strongest in rejecting within 30 days. You might like longer just in case the defects fail to show up within 30 days. The seller can agree to extend. Get them to write on the invoice/till receipt Your right to short term rejection is extended to x days. Say you will only buy if they do this.
  • If your purchase costs more than £100, buy using a credit card so that you can claim against the credit card company as an alternative to the trader where the trader has gone out of business or is difficult. This may not be legally available where an intermediary has processed the payment. That will be the case with a Pay Pal purchase, for example. In order to get this protection, it is not necessary for the entire purchase price to go on the card. £5 on the card and £100 in cash would be good enough to make the credit card company have to stump up 100% compensation. That compensation can include consequential losses on top of a refund of the purchase price.
  • If you bought using a debit card, then the card issuer may refund the purchase price where the goods are not up to legal standard. But you won't get consequential losses as with a plus £100 credit card purchase.
  • Changing you mind isn't a valid reason for getting the price back so long as the goods were up to legal standard. But the seller may run a returns policy. If so, you must comply with its conditions. Where there had to be a return within 14 days, you can't complain on being told you are too late because you tried to return after 14 days. Where you had to produce a receipt, you can't complain on being told 'no receipt, no return.' However, if these conditions weren't brought to your attention before you bought - on a conspicuous notice or by an assistant - you would not be bound by them. If they were brought to your attention on the till receipt and you weren't aware of them previously, that would be too late to enable the seller to rely on them.
  • If the goods were not up to legal standard, your inability to produce a receipt should not be fatal to securing a refund and any compensation to which you are entitled. The law dos not provide Thou shalt wave a receipt at the visage of the vendor. It is reasonable that the seller should be satisfied that you purchased the item from them but if no receipt, no credit card statement and no  other helpful document, your word should be good enough. Provided you are not an inveterate liar, it can be good enough for a judge in the county court. It has been good enough for me.
  • Where it is the person to whom you gifted the item who is complaining it is not up to legal standard, then the seller is entitled to say Push off. It wasn't you who made the contract to buy. There are two ways to overcome this in the case of a gift purchase. Get the seller to agree that if you buy they will write on the invoice/till receipt For Nellie and Macfarlane who can enforce all legal rights against us. If this wasn't done, write on the gift card I hereby assign all rights and remedies under the contract with x for the purchase of this gift to you Nellie Macfarlane and Nellie can notify the seller you have done this.
  • Rights under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 are given to individual consumers and not someone buying for a business. But if the dominant purpose of the purchase is private, the Act may still apply as it would if you bought a lap top for say 75% personal use and 25% business use.
  • Online you should generally have the right to cancel within 14 days of delivery just because you changed your mind.
  • The Consumer Rights Act 2015 applies to sale and other discounted purchases. You cannot complain about a defect which was brought it your attention before purchase. And if you examined before you purchased, you cannot complain about a defect which that should have revealed. The price you paid may be relevant to whether the item is of a legally satisfactory standard but even with a 95% discount, it must still work!
Good luck!

Sunday, 24 November 2019

Selfish and Disgusting Sneezers: Sue them

Twice this afternoon. Once in Waterstones and once in WH Smith. Within ten yards of me at each venue, a customer emitted the most enormous sneeze with gay abandon. No attempt to cover mouth, nostrils or any other orifice. No handkerchief. 'Look at me, I can sneeze loud, high and far so that I can infect you all.' I aired my views as volubly as I could without causing a public disturbance or a punch on my nose and do please remember that I wear specs and am of a nervous disposition. The circumstances were not quite good enough for a civil claim. But without apology, I again present my annual rant just in case you feel as strongly as me and fancy a trip to court. Here goes. 

An assault and battery are known to the civil law as a trespass to the person. If an unprotected sneeze is directed into your face then I regard that as such a trespass. It's probably also the tort of negligence. It could be either or both when, though not directly aimed at you, the sneezer is aware of your presence and the sneeze is emitted so close to you that they should have foreseen that you might catch something from them.

Proving that it was a result of the sneeze that you were struck down could be the obstacle to a successful civil claim for damages. You would have to prove that it was more probable than not that the sneeze was the cause of your illness. Physical closeness, the absence of prior symptoms, the velocity of the sneeze and the stage at which the symptoms began to manifest themselves will be among the major factors for consideration. The further away from you was the sneezer, the weaker your case.

A good sneeze can certainly travel at 60 to 80 miles per hour for up to 20 metres but research published in 2015 suggested that droplets from sneezes - and coughs - may travel 200 times further than had been thought. The incubation period for whatever is to follow the sneeze is around 24 to 48 hours.

Of course, you cannot make a civil claim unless you know the identity of the sneezer. Don't attempt a private arrest. For more on overcoming this obstacle and draft particulars of claim for a sneezing claim for damages, see my book Breaking Law. No warranty is given that you will succeed but let's hope someone does..... soon.'


I feel better now. Sorry.


Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Civil Partnerships for Opposite- Sex Couples Has Arrived

Same-sex couples can do it. Now opposite-sex couples are about to be able to do it in England and Wales. That's enter into a civil partnership instead of a marriage. There are over 3 million opposite-sex couples here who chose not to marry because they have a conscientious objection to the idea or for other personal reasons. They support a million children but do not have the security or legal protection that married couples or civil partners enjoy. It is all about to change.

The Civil Partnership (Opposite-Sex Couples) Regulations 2019 (SI 2019/1458) come into force on 02 December 2019 which will enable opposite-sex couples who wish to enter into a  civil partnership to give the required 28 days' notice and hold their ceremony before the end of this year. It could be you!

The right of same-sex civil partners to convert to a marriage, without having to first dissolve their partnership, is preserved. A similar right of opposite-sex partners to convert to marriage will not be available, at least for the time being, but will be considered.  

Friday, 1 November 2019

General Election: Keeping out the Canvassers

They tell me there's a General Election coming up. If you are short of company then you may welcome doorstep chat with a canvasser. You can just pretend you will be voting for their party. Or you may find the door knocks and the election literature to be a massive pain in the neck and just make do with being accosted outside Marks & Spencer. 

For those anxious to limit exposure to electioneering, I have devised a notice which you could display on your gatepost or in some other prominent position. Should the notice be ignored, the law would entitle you to use reasonable force to eject the trespasser once you have demanded they leave. But please go easy and do your best to avoid a confrontation. And don't mention my name.

Happy Election

ANY PROSPECTIVE PARLIAMENTARY CANDIDATE OR THEIR CAMPAIGNER OR OTHER AGENT IS UNWELCOME HERE AND SHOULD NOT ENTER OR ATTEMPT TO ENTER THIS PROPERTY OR REMAIN ON IT OR DELIVER OR ATTEMPT TO DELIVER ANY ELECTION LITERATURE TO IT. THIS DOES NOT APPLY TO POSTAL WORKERS. FAILURE TO COMPLY WITH THIS REQUIREMENT WILL MAKE YOU A TRESPASSER AND RENDER YOU LIABLE TO BE REMOVED FROM THE PROPERTY AND TO DAMAGES FOR TRESPASS AND/OR NUISANCE

Personal Injury Claim? Don't settle yet!


Guidelines are periodically published for judges and anyone else interested on the levels of compensation which should be awarded for a multitude of personal injuries from loss of limbs to a whiplash. The levels go up with each set of guidelines and judges tend to reflect the latest figures in what they decide to award. It follows that insurance companies and others who have to pay out the compensation will reflect the guidelines in the amount they offer  as they know what the claimant will receive if there is no settlement and a judge in court decides. Here's a bit more to how it works at http://www.breakinglaw.co.uk/search/label/compensation%20for%20personal%20injury

And so, if you are on the verge of settling a claim or are a lawyer advising on a settlement, ensure that account is taken of the very very latest guidelines that have just been published in the 15th edition of the Judicial College Guidelines for the Assessment of General Damages in Personal Injury Cases.

Happy Settlements.

Tuesday, 29 October 2019

Waitrose Lift Saga Earns Free Choc Cake

Maybe Waitrose have had their lift recorded announcement and other problems at their Richmond, Surrey store  (see http://www.breakinglaw.co.uk/search/label/Waitrose). But how can you fail to love them after their response to my Birthday greetings?!

From: STEPHEN GOLD 
Sent: 26/10/2019 12:21
Subject:  Car Park at Richmond-upon-Thames Store

Hello
I would like to both congratulate and apologise to you. As to congratulations, this is on the occasion of the first anniversary of the perverted automated announcement in your centre lift from ground floor to car park that the lift is descending rather than ascending and thereby sending its passengers into a state of intense confusion. As to the apology, this is on account of the lateness in conveying my congratulations which has been due to pressure of shopping.
I have previously drawn your attention to the lift problem which you had stated was being fixed. I am wondering whether the engineer has been caught in dreadful traffic?
May I offer a solution? I would be prepared to take up an honorary position in the lift in question and personally announce its direction of travel at appropriate intervals. All I would ask is that you made available to me a slice of your exquisite chocolate cake from the new Waitrose 1 range during tea breaks, assuming, of course, that I would be entitled to such breaks. I could arrange for my cat to take over duties during them.
I look forward to hearing from you.  
Yours sincerely
Stephen Gold
[Sitting down and not up]

From: Waitrose Customer Service
Sent: 28/10/19 19:27
To: STEPHEN GOLD 
Thank you for the offer of manning the lifts, however I am going to have to decline your help as I have now spoken to Jasmine, one of the duty managers in store this evening. She has advised that she will bring this to the attention of the maintenance team to get this fixed as quickly as possible, as we do not want to continue to confuse our customers anymore..


Apologies that this had not been rectified when you first queried this. I hope you will accept a small gift card so you can purchase that lovely chocolate cake you so desire. Please reply with your full home address and I will get this arranged for you.   

If you'd like to comment on the service I've given you, click the link below to take part in our quick survey - as a thank you, we’ll also enter you into our monthly prize draw where you could win Waitrose & Partners gift vouchers.

[link provided]

Kind regards 

Kristina  
Waitrose & Partners Customer Care
Case Reference: 06915209

I have accepted their offer. I'll be back when I have finished the cake.

Monday, 28 October 2019

Taxing Matters (or Who Needs An Accountant?)


After http://www.breakinglaw.co.uk/search/label/tax%20appeals perhaps I should be kinder to the taxman - and especially as my return for 2018/19 is awaiting his scrutiny.

HMRC has a new online customer forum where you can post questions on a range of tax topics that are answered by HMRC experts. Anyone can view the forum. I wouldn't suggest anything like 'I have never disclosed my profit for driving a minicab on the side. Where do you suggest I hide the money?'

But 'My ISA provider told me that if I took my interest monthly then I would be taxed on it. Isn't this nonsense?' would be okay. Actually, I asked it on Friday last week and they answered it today. It is nonsense. No, not their answer!

Go to https://community.hmrc.gov.uk to register. It's free.

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

Whistleblowing Latest


We have  met the law that protects whistleblowers who engage in spilling of the beans. See, for example, http://www.breakinglaw.co.uk/2017/05/power-to-whistleblowers.html

As a respite from Brexit,new whisleblowing law comes into force on 05 November 2019 in the form of the Public Interest Disclosure (Prescribed Persons) (Amendment) Order 2019 (SI 2019/1341)  It follows the annual review of the prescribed persons to whom workers can whistle an unhappy tune. The Commission for Equality and Human Rights is added as a prescribed person and the matters which whistleblowers can report to the European Securities and Markets Authority, Financial Conduct Authority and Welsh ministers are updated.


Monday, 23 September 2019

Thomas Cook: section 75 claims

Sorry, if you are a Thomas Cook customer-victim. If you have lost out or are due to lose out, you may be able to take advantage of ATOL cover (if a package holiday),  travel insurance or 'charge card' protection where you used a debit card. Where that doesn't help or where it helps but does not cover all your losses and you paid by credit card rather than debit card, section section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 could come to your aid. For how this works, see http://www.breakinglaw.co.uk/2018/12/for-bbc-radio-5-live-listeners.html

If the credit card provider is liable, this liability would extend to the payment of compensation for  consequential losses which could include  any extra you have to pay out on rebooking another but comparable holiday ; compensation for a spoilt holiday; and out of pocket expenses.

Good luck.

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Very Latest Civil Procedural Rules

Two more updates to the Civil Procedure Rules 1998 (applying to England and Wales) have been issued. This will save you having to read them. Switch on your yawnometer if you do. It could peak at 12 million before sending you completely into deep sleep. 

Update 110 amends Practice Direction 51O which is about the electronic working pilot scheme allowing for online commencement of proceedings and lodging documents. The scheme was extended  to the Queen's Bench Division of the High Court on 01 January 2019 and  to out of London Business and Property Court centres on 25 February 2019. As from 07 October 2019 it will apply to proceedings in the Senior Courts Costs Office started on or after that date including requests for detailed assessment and applications issued on or after that date. Lawyers and litigants in person can take advantage. As from 20 January 2020 lawyers must use the scheme. 

Update 111 which came into force last Monday o9 September 2019 (at 11am) will be of interest to litigants in person. Honest. that's because it only relates to you. It concerns a pilot scheme for online civil claims by litigants in person for specified claims for money which do not exceed £10,00 and which, if contested, will almost always be dealt with as 'small claims'. New features have been introduced to the scheme for testing. These include parties being able to complete online the directions questionnaire - this is for contested cases and solicits information to assist the court in deciding when and where to list the final hearing and what procedural directions to give for it. And more cases which are suitable will be referred for mediation under the free small claims mediation scheme. Up until now , they have only been referred where the parties agreed. In future they will be referred where the parties say nothing about wanting mediation: they will be presumed to agree to it. But mediation is still not made compulsory. Silly not to take advantage of it. The scheme is extended to 30 November 2021.

There is another pilot scheme running for lawyers only. It is the swingingly called online civil money claims pilot and it offers a digital service for specified and unspecified claims on an invitation-only basis. The scheme is also extended to  30 November 2021.

Told you!

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Divorce Reform Blow

The shutting down of Parliament means that the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill which was to introduce 'no fault' divorce (see http://www.breakinglaw.co.uk/search/label/divorce) has been lost. It had passed two readings and its committee stage. It will have to restart its Parliamentary passage if the Government so decrees. 

Friday, 6 September 2019

Service Charge Challenges: Escape from Landlord's costs

That's enough time off. Put down the ice cream cones and get on with some serious litigation. 

Although some of my best friends are residential landlords (to be honest, I am anti-social), they and their managing agents do know how to load the service charge bill, don't they? Unreasonably incurred bills, sub-standard services and work and services which are outside the scope of what, according to the lease, the tenant should be paying for, can all be challenged. The usual place to mount a challenge is the tribunal: to be precise, the First-Tier Tribunal Property Chamber (Residential Property). I know the name alone is enough to put you off but don't be deterred, my friends. You will find some sexy decisions on challenges that have been made in this blog at http://www.breakinglaw.co.uk/search/label/service%20charges

Now, one of the problems with a challenge is it will involve the landlord in expense. The landlord might well bring in lawyers. And, whether you win or lose, the lease may say that the landlord can add these challenge expenses to a future service charge bill. This would mean you and the other tenants in the block eventually having to contribute towards them. 

There's a possible escape. It is an application (under section 20C of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985) for an order which prohibits the landlord from adding part if not the whole of its expenses to the service charge. The tribunal will grant such an application if it is satisfied that, in the circumstances it is 'just and equitable' to do so. It would be madness for  the challenger not to apply for such an order. The application should be made on the tribunal form called Leasehold 7.   

What an appeal judgement* has established is that a section 20C order can only be made in favour of the challenger and anyone else who the challenger specifies in the form they seek to benefit from an order. The application form specifically asks for details of other tenants who would wish to avoid being stung for challenge expenses, even though they are not parties to those proceedings. The judgment also makes clear that * there is no time limit for a section 20C application being made: * co-tenants who might be effected can make their own application in the same proceedings or subsequently; and * co-tenants can apply for a section 20C order even though the tenant making the challenge was refused a section 20C order.

Good luck, if you deserve it. And, remember, there's a load on landlord and tenant warfare and a thousand other legal topics in Breaking Law.

*The case is Plantation Wharf Management Ltd v Blain Alden Fairman and others [2019] UKUT 236 (LC) 

Saturday, 10 August 2019

Flight Delay Claims:Beating Extraordinary Circumstances

'Go away and take your claim under the European Regulation No261/2004 for flight delay compensation with you. It was an extraordinary circumstance so you are stuffed.' That's what so may airlines will say when sending you packing. If they can prove the delay was due to extraordinary circumstances then they reckon they are off the hook. And they may be right.

See http://www.breakinglaw.co.uk/search/label/flight%20delay%20claims for a bit more on extraordinary circumstances.

But, as a decision just out of the European Court of Justice shows, they may be wrong! In Germanwings GmbH v Pauels (case C-501/17), it was a screw in one of the plane's tyres what did it which meant the tyre had to be changed. This caused a 3hour 28 minutes delay in the claimant's flight from Dublin to Dusseldorf. 

Events can be classified as extraordinary circumstances if, by their very nature or origin, they were not inherent in the normal exercise of the airline's activity and they were outside their actual control.  Where the delay resulted from impact with a screw on the runway that could amount to what the law regards as extraordinary circumstances.

So far, so good for the outline. But the European Court went on to declare that in the screw -tyre situation here, the airline would only escape liability if it could prove it had adopted measures appropriate to that situation. That would involve deploying all its resources in terms of staff and equipment and the financial means at its disposal to avoid the cancellation or long delay of the flight. It would not be expected, however, to make intolerable sacrifices in the light of its capacities. 

This was a preliminary ruling on the law and the claim must now go on and be determined in the Cologne Court where it started on the basis of what the European Court has ruled. What the ruling establishes is that the fact extraordinary circumstances can be proved by the airline does not mean the claim is over for the delayed passenger.

Monday, 29 July 2019

The Very Very Latest Court Procedure Rule Changes

It could be said that if you take a deep interest in the Civil Procedure Rules 1998 (CPR), you are some sort of judicial pervert. Nonsense. These rules govern how you go about pursuing or defending civil court proceedings in England and Wales and how the courts will deal with them.  They are as dry as old boots but, whether you be a lawyer or a litigant in person, you need to know what they say or you could find that your case is killed off by a judge because you have failed to follow them. You'll get a pretty good idea of what they say from reading my book Breaking Law (this guy will write anything to collect a few bob in royalties) and the rules, like everything in the book, are updated here FREE!

The rules themselves and the practice directions which supplement them are updated at least twice a year. They've just issued update 109. Yeh, really cool. Which takes me to this post. A warning. You could fall asleep before you finish the post. Perhaps, get someone to pinch your toes every five seconds. And, if you want to fall asleep before you begin, you can take a look at the Civil Procedure (Amendment No 3) Rules 2019 (SI 2019/1118) on which part of the update is based.

Everything summarised comes into force on 01 October 2019 bar one thing. Here goes with the best bits. 

Costs budgeting  Practice Direction 3E  is clarified to make it clear that the costs of and including the first costs management conference will be incurred costs so that they will not be open to adjustment by the court at the budgeting stage.
Reviewing the situation  The pre-action protocol for judicial review is amended - as from 17 September 2019 - to specify to where the letter before claim should be sent when the Treasury Solicitor acts for the intended defendant and has already been involved or where a decision of HM Revenue & Customs is involved.
Small but beautiful  A hearing of a small claim (that usually means a claim that has been valued at £10,000 or less) will generally take place in public at a county court. That means that your arch enemies, next door neighbour, local newspaper reporter and former Latin teacher can all turn up and enjoy the proceedings. In practice, it is very rare indeed for anyone to be present apart from the judge, the parties, any legal representatives or McKenzie Friends and the witnesses, so don't worry. But just occasionally someone else might attend. Practice Direction 27 has been amended to clarify that the fact the parties agree the hearing should be in private will not of itself be a sufficient ground for the judge to direct a private hearing. The only situations in which a private hearing can be ordered are set out in rule 39.2 of the CPR. They include that publicity would defeat the object of the proceedings or that the hearing involves confidential information, including information relating to personal financial matters, and publicity would damage that confidentiality.
Aha, Aarhus  A claim under the Aarhus Convention is an environmental judicial review or statutory review and the Convention was devised to see that the public has access to proceedings which challenge public authorities over environmental issues and that these proceedings are not prohibitively expensive. The latest update tweaks the CPR at rule 45.41(2)(a). This will bring statutory reviews relating to national environmental law within the environmental cost protection regime.
Media Mad Unless agreed by the parties in writing, the county court lacks jurisdiction to deal with claims for libel or slander (although it can deal with claims for malicious false hood - see Breaking Law  for more info on them). That’s s15 of the County Courts Act 1984 and  Practice Direction 7A. A new para 2.9A provides that, subject to this, any media and communications claim, including business within the media and communications list, can be started in the county court or High Court and the £1000,000 threshold to claim in the High Court will no longer apply. But to the High Court the claimant must go if they believe that a High Court judge is needed on account of value and/or complexity and /or public importance. Also, the pre-action protocol for defamation cases is replaced by one for media and communication cases.
What a Business A new Practice Direction, swingingly entitled 57AA and devoted to he Business and Property Courts, will only come into force if we Brexit without a deal - along with a million other pieces of legislation. Help!!!!

That's yer lot

Friday, 26 July 2019

MasterCard: Supreme Court Appeal Permission Result

Sorry but put the champers back on ice and stick to gripe water for the time being. In the Walter Merricks collective claim on behalf of virtually all of us against MasterCard - take a look at http://www.breakinglaw.co.uk/search/label/MasterCard%20claim - the Supreme Court has just given MasterCard permission to appeal to it against the Court of Appeal's ruling that the collective claim could continue. I'll be back soon with news of when the appeal is likely to be heard.

Monday, 22 July 2019

Hugging A Debtor: County Court Judgments

The government’s recently announced 60 day ‘breathing space’ scheme to protect debtors who are individuals is planned to rear its head in legislation to be put before parliament later this year with implementation in early 2020. But don't hold your breath. They tell me that anything could happen Westminster way between now and then.

But there's good news for debtors NOW which might conceivably bring on some creditor cursing. When the creditor has a county court judgment for less than £5,000 they can send in the county court bailiff to the debtor. They do this by applying to the court for a warrant of control. Centres called - wait for it - warrant of control centres - are being established in 12 locations in England and Wales by the Courts Service. Some of these centres are already functioning. All warrants of control will be referred to the centre servicing the relevant patch rather than immediately to a bailiff. The centre will then make contact with the debtor and attempt to engage with them with a view to arranging a pay up, probably by instalments, and offering support when it is needed. This will last for up to around 12 days. If the debtor has paid up or come to an arrangement to pay with the creditor then it should be unnecessary for the bailiff to be involved.

The Courts Service reckons that the scheme is working well. If it helps debtors or creditors or both, all well and good. If it means that the scheme gives the debtor an opportunity to get rid of of their Roller or fifth television set before it can be seized by the bailiff, then not so good - for the creditor. It is always open to the creditor who has no faith in the debtor playing ball to attempt to stop the warrant being referred to one of these centres by making an application to the court for the warrant to go straight to the bailiff and for the debtor not to be given prior notice of the bailiff's intention to call on them.

A creditor can have the judgment referred to the High Court and a writ of  control issued there which would be dealt with by an enforcement agent who is the High Court's version of a bailiff. This can only be done if the judgment is for at least £600. Disadvantages? The enforcement agent's charges ultimately payable by the debtor are higher than the charges involved in using a county court bailiff and will take priority over the debt. This means that if the debtor has only very limited assets then there may be nothing left for the creditor. The arguable advantages? A control centre will be avoided and interest on the judgment at the rate of 8% will be attracted as from when the case goes to the High Court until the debtor gets their money.

There are loadsatips for debtors and creditors about how the law can help them in my book Breaking Law.  Be careful though, debtors, to hide it under the bed. Otherwise, the bailiff or enforcement agent might seize it!