Bailiffs' behaviour to be controlled by new laws

 

Helen Grant: "We are saying bailiffs are not going to be allowed to use force"

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Laws to tackle aggressive bailiffs will be introduced next year in England and Wales, the government has announced.

Bailiffs will be banned from entering homes at night, or properties where only children are present, and will be stopped from using any physical contact when dealing with people who owe money.

They will also no longer have free rein to fix their own fees, because set fee scales will be brought in.

Bailiff organisations said the changes were badly needed.

Bad name

Analysis

The law relating to enforcement by the seizure and sale of goods is complex, unclear and confusing.

There are also different types of bailiffs and enforcement officers, depending on the type of debt being recovered.

This confusion can result in bailiffs and enforcement officers misrepresenting their legal authority.

There is anecdotal evidence of some bailiffs using aggression and excessive force, and the costs regime is complex.

Each enforcement power has a different cost structure and the charging process is prone to abuse.

In addition, regulation is fragmented with some elements of the industry being tightly regulated, whilst others are only subject to informal regulation through trade associations.

There are currently no set training standards. Reform had been in discussion for years, finally it is going to happen.

Martin Leyshon, chairman of the High Court Enforcement Officers Association, said: "We believe that the system is very archaic in England and Wales. As an association we fully support the government's attempts to sort out the problem of aggressive bailiffs."

The Civil Enforcement Association called it a "small step forward".

"The industry has been pressing for reform for nearly 30 years and we feel these are long overdue. We look forward to their early introduction," it said.

Justice minister Helen Grant said a small minority of bailiffs had been able to give the industry a bad name.

She also said the fees charged were sometimes "extortionate".

Following a Ministry of Justice consultation last year, the government will legislate next year to introduce new measures to combat the problem.

Mandatory training and a new certification process for bailiffs will be introduced.

Rent arrears

There will be a set of simple rules detailing when a bailiff can enter a property, what they can take and a fee structure to end excessive and multiple charges.

Landlords will be banned from using bailiffs to seize property for rent arrears, without going to court.

Mrs Grant said: "Bailiffs will not be able to use force against the person and they will not be able to enter any homes with just children there.

"There are some very good bailiffs around, don't get me wrong - but it is being reported to us from MPs and other organisations that there is bad practice, and we need to deal with it."

Companies, councils and courts all use bailiffs to collect money owed to them.

Start Quote

They intimidate and they bully, and they overcharge”

End Quote Sian Meredith Campaigner

Sian Meredith, a victim of bad behaviour from bailiffs and a campaigner, said the legislation was long overdue and "very badly needed".

Recounting her own experience, she said: "I purchased a property and it was the debt of the previous owner who had left two years previously. It was a very old debt.

"They were threatening to clamp and remove vehicles and I was powerless to stop them. It took the involvement of my member of Parliament to stop them.

"They intimidate and they bully, and they overcharge. Overcharging is one of the main issues.

"I think the government is only really scratching the surface of this. I mean there's no mention of an independent regulator in what's being proposed... or a proper complaints procedure.

"I can't see a lot changing, other than the fact that the government is going to enforce the charging structures, which is the main good news about this."

 

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 43.

    @32. Farquhar
    No, I think the point being made here is that it is against morals, ethics and most religions to go through life lying and deceiving others to gain products or services and the like from others with no intention of paying it back then expect everyone else to pick up your bill. Genuine cases are accepted which is what this law need to cover.Any other scoundrel deserves what they get

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 42.

    @DenyNothing

    Are you serious?

    Just leave everything to god and the sinners will see the error of their ways?

    Get a grip man!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 41.

    I am not a great lover of Bailiffs, but there are many differences on why people owe money and often try to "escape" their debts by simply not paying what they owe. I agree no Bailiff should threaten or bully anyone but they all work on a Court Order, if the court agrees that monies are owed.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 40.

    These new laws for bailiffs are just in the nick of time, as many people understand by now that what this coalition Government has done with cuts cuts cuts the ordinary household will not be able to afford their bills so this could be a soft soft approach in sizing their belongings to pay of their dept.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 39.

    Like most industries it is only the bad ones who make the headlines, I had to deal with a bailiff from the court and although his fees added on to the debt were unjustified he was very polite and no aggression at all, it is the fees that need addressing

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 38.

    why does it take so long to change the law they should do it asap

  • rate this
    +16

    Comment number 37.

    There needs to be a much clearer distinction between county court bailiffs and private debt collectors. If the second pass themselves off as the first then they should be jailed. It is no different than impersonating a police officer.

  • rate this
    +14

    Comment number 36.

    3. DenyNothing
    While I cannot agree with violence, surely you should render unto Caesar that which is Caesars, that is what the BIBLE says."

    DenyNothing, Why do you have to bring the Bible into everything? It just degrades any discussion into militant atheists vs militant Christians.

    I'm a Christian myself, but, hey, just tone it down man...

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 35.

    If bailiffs were not bailiffs a vast majority of them would be heavies working for crooks and money lenders

  • Comment number 34.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +18

    Comment number 33.

    I know a few people who have had problems with bailiffs turning up looking for other people, and refusing to believe that the name they have is not the person they are talking to. They don't seem to care who they take property from, as long as they leave with something. About time something was done to stop the (apparent) minority giving the whole profession a bad name!

  • rate this
    +12

    Comment number 32.

    3.DenyNothing
    "..surely the right way is to talk it through until the sinner sees the error of their ways and comes back to the word of GOD."

    Is it a sin to lose your job through no fault of your own and fall on hard times?? Typical bible-basher mentality - all about persecution and bigotry.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 31.

    This and prenuptul agreements are areas of law that needs attention asap

    bailiffs must be governed by a court order based on proof credit reference threats where no money is owned is common and has brought the process down to threaning thunggery which is not in the public interest or the rule of law.

    Where baliffs are unregulated we could see a further repeat of the failed spainish system

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 30.

    Hum, not sure I agree with this.

    There are many people in this country who are taken to court and issued fines. They don;t pay the fine - so often the bayliffs get sent in.

    I run a small business and when I get non payers I have to take them to the small claims court. Even if I win they still don't have to pay - and get a CCJ against them - but they simply don't care.

    Madness

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 29.

    @ 8 SaveourCountry
    Harrasing people in there own homes is not acceptable and no reputable firm should be using this method to collect money. Its bad enough being unable to pay your bills without living in fear that some bloke could come in and take your stuff !"

    Sorry, but this attitude stinks! They shouldn't have made the purchase if they cannot afford to pay it back.
    END OF!

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 28.

    Companies, tradesmen and landlords have a right to what is owed, even unpaid council tax gets paid by the rest of us.

    I agree that a court order should be a pre-requisite before sending in the bailiffs and they should operate to a code of conduct, but you have to go way down the road of avoiding payment or coming to an arrangement with creditors before that stage. Don't blame the bailiff.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 27.

    and how about clampers as well ?

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 26.

    Criminals who want to make a quick buck can either set up a clamping firm, baliff company or a sercurity firm. Usually all of these. The SIA badge for security staff is a joke, it's self policing and is managed by the same crooks running these firms in the first place. Baliffs are no different and these changes are worthless.

  • rate this
    -9

    Comment number 25.

    Any one who owes any amount of money, knowing that they have put some innocent person through hell to get it back, should have a Baliff go and retrieve it, has my backing!!!!!! the people that are saying they shouldn`t has probably owed money this way.

  • rate this
    +14

    Comment number 24.

    Baliff's are bullies. They act like they are above the law and treat you like scum. They came to my home for a debt for my ex husband. He had left 2 years previously. I showed them divorce papers etc, and they told me I had to produce reciepts to prove my things were my own or they would take it! Nightmare

    This has been a long time coming and it's well deserved. . . . . now for the clampers!

 

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