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Bailiffs break the rules every single minute

Paloma Kubiak
Written By:
Paloma Kubiak

People in debt are suffering increased stress, anxiety and financial hardship as analysis reveals bailiffs flout the rules every minute.

One third of the 2.2 million people contacted by a bailiff in the last two years experienced them pushing the limits of the law – such as by forcing entry into a home or removing goods needed for work.

The data from charities Citizens Advice and StepChange said this rate works out as one debt collector overstepping the mark every single minute.

But this has further consequences for people, as one in two said the visit made them fall further into debt due to the enforcement fees.

Citizens Advice said it’s seen a 24% increase in people reporting problems with bailiffs, adding that it remains one of the most common debt issues it helps clients with.

It found that bailiffs are also refusing to accept reasonable offers of payment when someone is unable to pay off the amount in full. Last year, it helped 17,000 people in this situation.

In one case seen by the charity, a homeowner suffering depression fell behind on their council tax two years in a row. The debt amounted to around £1,000 and once paying for essentials, they had £40 left for the month. But £20 was used to meet the cost of the council tax arrears yet the bailiff refused to accept anything but the full amount owed.

In total, the charity estimates households have a total of £19bn in council tax and utility bill arrears, overtaking other forms of debt such as loan and credit cards.

Government reforms were introduced in 2014 to protect people from unfair practices such as not pressing people to make unrealistic offers but the charities argue these aren’t working.

As such, they’re calling for the government to regulate the industry to prevent more people being subjected to bailiffs who break the rules.

‘A law unto themselves’

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Too often bailiffs, and the firms they work for, are a law unto themselves. This is inflicting widespread harm on people and their families and it has to stop.

The 2014 reforms were well intentioned but sadly have had little effect on improving the behaviour of some bailiffs.

“Faced with the evidence we’ve put in front of them, the Ministry of Justice has no other option but to establish an independent bailiff regulator.”