In 2017, far too many people still have bailiff problems, despite the new bailiff rules, known as Taking Control of Goods, that were introduced three years ago in 2014.
The news story in May 2017, Debt-ridden courier’s suicide after bailiff visit prompts call for reforms is dreadful. No-one in should feel under so much pressure and this was for what were originally two small parking debts. And the young man didn’t even have mental health issues – the worry about bailiffs can be much harder to manage for people who do.
Seven charities – AdviceUK, Christians Against Poverty, Citizens Advice, Money Advice Trust, StepChange, The Children’s Society and Z2K – have just published Taking Control: The need for fundamental bailiff reform, looking at the sorts of problems their clients have had and calling for seven major reforms.
Have you been visited by a bailiff since April 2014?
If you are one of the tens of thousands of people who has dealt with bailiffs in the last three years, can you add your story to the new campaign database? It doesn’t have to be horrendous – just an everyday story of being pressured to pay more than you can afford and the stress it caused you. This doesn’t have to be long and it’s anonymous. See what other people have written!
It also doesn’t have to be long and it’s anonymous. See what other people have written!
The Ministry of Justice is going to review how the 2014 changes are working in practice. Talking about your experience adds to the evidence for this review.
Some of the stories added yesterday include:
I have a County Court Judgement which has been passed to a bailiff firm for enforcement. When I contacted the bailiffs they told me (wrongly) that there is a warrant out for my arrest because of this debt which really upset me.
My parking fines have increased from £80 to £422 now they are with a bailiff firm who are unwilling to accept payment in instalments. They insinuated that I was a liar when I complained about the way the individual enforcement agent spoke to my partner.
I provided bank details to an enforcement agent in order to pay an instalment of a magistrates fine but they have taken the full amount of the arrears, leaving me struggling to pay my staff wages. Now I can’t even get in contact with the enforcement agent or the firm he works.
What needs to change
Some bailiff problems happen because they aren’t following the current rules. In particular bailiffs often overstate their powers, intimidating people into making payments they can’t afford, sometimes even for debts that aren’t theirs.
The current fee structure doesn’t provide any incentive for a bailiff to accept a repayment plan over the phone at the beginning – if they refuse and visit the property they get a much bigger fee!
The report recommends that:
- The bailiff industry should be independently regulated.
- There should be a free, clear, transparent and accessible bailiff complaints procedure.
- There should be a clear, simple and universally applicable procedure that allows people to apply to suspend action
- Bailiff fees should be restructured, so as to incentivise good practice.
- Bailiffs should use a prescribed and consistent framework for agreeing to affordable repayments.
- There should be procedures in place to identify vulnerable people and protect them from enforcement.
- Creditors should be required to act responsibly and do demonstrably more to collect the debt before resorting to enforcement.
Do you have a current bailiff problem?
This Citizens Advice page looks at what bailiffs can and can’t do. If you are worried about one of your debts being sent to a bailiff, or you have already received a letter from a bailiff, get advice as soon as possible. There may be more options than you think.