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
    +7

    Comment number 63.

    @48. samxool
    "They have every right to claim the money they are owed!"
    Of course they do. But do they have the right to use threats, force lies and bullying to get that money? To refuse repayment offers and demand more money? To add on huge charges everytime they visit and refuse repayment offers?

  • rate this
    -5

    Comment number 62.

    48. samxool

    Spot on...looks like a lot of posters who are rating negatively here are the ones defending this behaviour and are quite likely to be the ones wanting defend their tax payers driven lifestyle!!

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 61.

    Peaceful entry.....enter through an open window...I thought burglars did that....

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 60.

    Long overdue.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 59.

    54

    Good point. Last summer I had to intervene on behalf of a colleague who found herself repeatedly harassed by the same firm of bailiffs over the debts of a previous tenant who had absconded. They told me that their internal procedures do not allow them to cross-reference cases. So we had to deal with the same bailiffs separately for all warrants. Absurdity or incompetence or total indifference?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 58.

    I will believe any move to help the poor when it becomes a reality.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 57.

    This is nothing more than the rich paying poor people to go and take money off other poor people.

    We should all be ashamed.

  • rate this
    +11

    Comment number 56.

    A welcome development. But surely the real underlaying issue is people getting into ever more debt. The cost of living is soaring - rent, mortgage, council tax,, energy, food, fuel etc. Many can no longer afford the basics and they fall into debt NOT through excess expenditure, but through poverty.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 55.

    There do need to be rules, but saying that bailiffs are always 'evil' is just wrong.

    Someone needs to try to recover money as a last resort if it is owed and hasn't been paid. How bailiffs work definitely has to be looked at and regulated, but there needs to be someone doing that job

    Personally I think it should be a self-funded part of the court system

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 54.

    Don't know if anyone heard my interview on Jeremy Vine about an hour ago, but the point has to be made that some bailiffs are pursuing an address and not the person. My personal experience with them had to do with a previous tenant's debt and not my own. Regulation is a very good thing if it stops intimidation, particularly when you didn't mess up your finances in the first place.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 53.

    For regulation to work, a regulator must be a statutory body setting standards of conduct and punishing failure to comply and order compensation where appropriate.

    This won't happen because the government stands to be the biggest loser.

    The government enjoys a free bailiff service so bailiffs overcharge debtors that do pay to offset losses from debtors that don't pay.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 52.

    My local council uses baillifs to collect unpaid council tax even when the bill is less than a year old or under dispute! They even said they would remove two lights for auction that were purchased for £2 each in a sale, after auction costs I would have owed them more for taking away the said items. Utterly horrendous practice by bullying over priced councils and their boot boys.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 51.

    Let's remember that not everyone who ends up in debt did it deliberately. Many many people find themselves there through no fault of their own.

    Some people seem to have fallen for the divisive tactics of our government and feel that Great Britain is an 'Us and Them' society, the haves and have nots.

    I wouldn't wish dealing with bailiffs on anyone who didn't deserve it.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 50.

    Will they also be looking at the recovery companies (legalised loan sharks) that harass people with letters, texts and phone calls. These are as bad if not worse than the bailiff turning up, as the bullying, threats & intimidation by phone, all happens with no witnesses. The whole sordid industry needs sorting out.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 49.

    This is good news. I am not a debtor but i have been seeing some episodes on Watch of a series called call in the bailiffs i think. Anyway the way they conduct the house and shop visits is Vile. Im glad this has happened i only said that it should on Monday after seeing a show. Next thing that should be banned is all these payday loan companies.

  • rate this
    -9

    Comment number 48.

    @46 Steph

    Yes i am, i have something called a job. It means i have money to pay for things.
    Including council tax.
    If they can't afford it, maybe they should have cut back on their sky tv, 50 packet of fags, beer, etc
    They have every right to claim the money they are owed!

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 47.

    Baillifs should be a last resort but increasingly businesses are abusing their power to gain automatic court orders without the opportunity of the person owing the money to defend themselves. Increasingly companies sell debt to debt collection companies rather than deal with arears reasonably. There should be no need for bailiffs at all!

  • rate this
    +13

    Comment number 46.

    @ samxool

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

    Despite the fact that bailiffs also pursue Council Tax arrears... therefore not purchases that have been made? And also, you have no idea as to the personal circumstances of people who have such debt - how are you in any position to make such statements?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 45.

    Guess what happens to the goods they seize that don't get sold at auction.... Skipped !
    Once they gain peaceful entry, (enter through open window, force a foot in the door) they can then return at anytime and force entry.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 44.

    Problem firms and bailiffs should receive permanent bans from the industry and/or jail terms. Police are very reluctant to take action against rogue bailiffs, as a couple of friends of mine have discovered the hard way.

 

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