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Charity helps one person every three minutes with bailiff issues

Joanna Faith
Written By:
Joanna Faith

Citizens Advice is calling for better regulation of bailiff firms after it revealed households have fallen behind on their everyday bills by £18.9bn.

The charity said last year it helped one person every three minutes with bailiff issues.

It is calling for the bailiff industry to be independently regulated.

In 2014, the government introduced reforms which were meant to protect people from unfair bailiff practices. But Citizens Advice said it has seen a 24% rise in bailiff problems since then.

In July, MPs said government and local authorities were “worst in class” for debt collection, and that bailiff use can cause additional problems.

Falling behind on household bills typically has more severe consequences than missing repayments on overdrafts and personal loans as people face having their essential services cut off, can be kicked out of their home due to rent arrears or even face prison if they get behind on their council tax.

Citizens Advice is concerned that aggressive tactics are also having serious knock-on effects, leading to further debt and mental health problems.

It pointed to one example of a retired couple who owed £700 in council tax. The bailiffs who came to collect the debt were aggressive and demanded the full amount immediately, saying they were going to call the police if the couple couldn’t pay.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “One person every three minutes come to us for help with bailiff issues. Families are living in fear of a visit from the bailiffs, and small missed bills can skyrocket through excessive enforcement fees.

“Our evidence shows aggressive tactics by bailiffs cause huge distress and can even push people further into debt. Families are going without essentials like food or electricity to meet their payments.

“The Ministry of Justice has already announced a call for evidence into aggressive collection practices by bailiffs. They must use this to take strong action and introduce an independent bailiff regulator to fix this broken system.”