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Number of Brits seeking help about bailiffs trebles in a year

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The number of people seeking online advice on how to deal with bailiffs has almost trebled since April last year.

According to Citizens Advice Bureaux (CAB), the numbers rose to over 20,000 in April 2013, from just under 7,000 in April last year.

Over 37,000 people sought online advice about council tax in April 2013 – 87% higher than the same month in 2012.

CAB in England and Wales also helped with 60,652 problems with bailiffs, a third of which were for council tax debts.

During the same time period the charity has helped with 161,564 problems with council tax arrears.

The charity said there has been a 38% increase in problems with private bailiffs in the last five years.

Gillian Guy, chief executive at Citizens Advice, said: “A third of the bailiff problems we help with each year are for council tax debt. We see cases where bailiffs overstate their powers, act aggressively and bump up debts by levying excessive fees and charges.

“Local authorities must protect people from bailiffs who flout the law by helping people early on who are struggling to pay their council tax. We urge councils to sign up to our protocol for dealing with council tax debt.”

Almost 9 in 10 problems with bailiffs relate to private bailiffs who are responsible for collecting debts including council tax debts and unpaid parking penalties.

In August 2012, analysis of 400 bailiff problems which people brought to CAB found:

 2 in 5 (39%) threatened the use of force to get in

 16% said they would call the police to gain entry

 1 in 4 threatened to take items that are banned from removal by bailiffs (such as clothing or work tools)

 29% threatened to seize goods that belonged to someone else.

 In almost 4 out of 5 (78%) of the cases bailiff action has brought on stress and anxiety

 In 35% bailiff action has exacerbated clients mental or physical health problems (23% and 12% respectively).

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