Bailiff powers cut under new UK laws

Tony Gosling tony at
Fri Apr 4 14:23:00 BST 2014

Bailiff powers cut under new UK laws
Restrictions on entering homes and seizing propery are praised by 
campaigners who say industry is rife with abuses
    * <>, Friday 4 April 
2014 06.31 BST
Bailiffs are to be banned from entering homes at night and from using 
physical force against debtors under new laws coming into effect this weekend.

Further changes will also prevent enforcement agents from entering 
properties where only children are at home and from taking vital 
household essentials such as cookers, microwaves, fridges or washing machines.

Bailiffs, who collect roughly four million debts each year, will also 
have to be trained and certified to practise under a shake-up of laws 
designed to bring an end to aggressive behaviour.

Chris Grayling, the justice secretary, said: "People will still have 
to face up to their debts but they will no longer need to fear their 
home being raided at night, the threat of violence or having their 
vital household equipment seized.

"We are stamping out bad practice and making sure bailiffs play by 
the rules. Those who don't will be banned."
Among the changes landlords will no longer be able to use bailiffs to 
seize property for residential rent debts without going to court 
first, while the debt collectors will have to give courts information 
on the likely means of entry and amount of force required before a 
warrant is granted.

Bailiffs will also have to give seven days' notice before taking 
possessions unless they have specific permission from a court.

The reforms come into effect on 6 April and are part of a wider 
package under changes to the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007.

Jo Salter, researcher at the think-tank Demos, said its research had 
shown "aggressive" behaviour by bailiffs played a big part in the 
emotional harm caused to families by debt.

"Council tax arrears is an example of one type of debt that many said 
resulted in bailiffs getting involved. The actions of bailiffs could 
often overwhelm people's rational ability to deal with the debt 
itself. As a result our research showed that arrears can often be 
just as harmful to people as payday loans."

The Citizens Advice chief executive, Gillian Guy, said: "We help with 
1,000 bailiff problems a week. People have reported bailiffs giving 
debt letters to their children and threatening violence. These new 
rules reflect just how out of control the industry is and are a 
welcome step towards protecting people in debt.

"What is missing from these changes is accountability for bailiff 
firms. We'd like to see a licensing system that means firms are 
struck off if bailiffs break the rules."
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