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Bailiffs’ visits re-start – but they must be socially distant

Written by: Emma Lunn
Bailiffs are allowed to visit debtors' homes again from today, following a temporary ban due to coronavirus.

Emergency laws introduced in April put a stop to home visits from bailiffs over fears they wouldn’t follow social distancing rules.

But restrictions have now been lifted and bailiffs can visit your home regarding payments for fines, parking and traffic offences, unpaid council tax and other outstanding debts.

Any bailiffs carrying out residential visits need to stick to new rules published by the Ministry of Justice last week.

The guidance includes keeping to social distancing rules, wearing PPE and gloves, not raising their voices, and contacting people before visiting them at home.

But debt charities have warned that the resumption of bailiff activity is premature.

Step Change says that the government’s own rationale for suspending activity – that unnecessary visits could endanger the health of both enforcement agents and debtors – hasn’t changed; and that even with improved guidance, the government has very little power to ensure bailiffs follow the rules.

It also said there is a case for seeking to mitigate the stress and pressure that bailiff activity imposes on those whose circumstances leave them unable to pay in these unprecedented times.

Richard Lane, director of external affairs at StepChange, said: “This rushed and premature return to bailiff activity puts people at risk and will make debts harder to repay. We welcome the government’s new guidance on how these visits should be conducted, but we still have concerns about how it will ensure this guidance is followed. We would also question, while still in the midst of the crisis, whether bailiff visits are a useful way to deal with arrears from vulnerable households.

“The lack of oversight only highlights the urgent and longstanding need for an independent regulator. We are pleased that the government was mindful of our concerns, but fundamental reform remains essential.”

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