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Bailiff action should be banned during crisis, debt charities say

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Bailiffs should be banned from visiting homes of people in arrears during the coronavirus crisis, debt charities have said.

Citizens Advice, Money Advice Trust and StepChange Debt Charity are calling on the government to suspend all bailiff action on both public health and financial support grounds.

All three charities say their debt advisers have already begun to receive calls about bailiffs visiting the homes of people who are self-isolating.

The charities say urgent clarity is needed for local authorities on the need to prevent bailiffs – known legally as enforcement agents – from visiting the properties of people who are already struggling with the financial impact of the outbreak.

Some local authorities, including Dudley Council and Peterborough Council, have taken action locally to suspend bailiff action. However, the charities fear other local authorities will continue to pass debts to bailiffs unless the government intervenes.

The charities have written a joint letter to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government Robert Jenrick, asking for bailiff action to be temporarily suspended.

Joanna Elson, chief executive of the Money Advice Trust, the charity that runs National Debtline, said: “All local authorities should be suspending bailiff action during this crisis – and the most guaranteed way of ensuring this is for the government to include this measure as part of its Covid-19 response.

“With 2.6 million debts being passed to bailiffs by local authorities every year, this issue is pressing and urgent – on the grounds of both public health and supporting the growing number of households whose finances have been impacted by Covid-19.”

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Aggressive collection of council tax at a time when people are concerned about the health and financial consequences of Covid-19 is plain wrong. The government must urgently stop bailiffs collecting these arrears for the duration of the outbreak and put in place measures to prevent council tax bills forcing people into spiralling debt.”

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