The need for bailiff reform

Z2K is joining AdviceUK, Christians Against Poverty, Citizens Advice, Money Advice Trust, StepChange Debt Charity and The Children’s Society, to launch a new report on the need for fundamental bailiff reform. The report finds that the new bailiff regulations brought in in 2014 are failing to protect people in financial difficulty from unfair treatment.

New research conducted for the launch of Taking Control found that of 1,400 people who had been visited by a bailiff in the last six months, 24 per cent had tried to arrange repayment over the phone but found the bailiff insisted on visiting anyway, most likely so they could charge a higher fee. In addition, nearly a fifth say they were not contacted by the bailiff before they visited. Both of these are examples of non-compliance with the 2014 regulations.

One in six clients surveyed by StepChange Debt Charity had been visited by a bailiff in the previous year, with half of those saying they were treated unfairly, and 16 percent saying they felt forced to take out more credit to deal with bailiffs’ demands.

The scale of bailiff use is significant and growing. Last year, Citizens Advice helped people with 82,000 issues related to bailiff action – with 57,000 issues related to bailiff enforcement of council tax debt alone. Research from the Money Advice Trust, the charity that runs National Debtline, shows that local authorities (the largest user of bailiffs) in England and Wales passed 2.1 million debts to bailiffs in the space of just 12 months in 2014/15.  This represented a rise of 16 percent on two years previously.

We are calling on the Ministry of Justice to introduce an independent regulator covering all bailiffs, a single complaints mechanism and a restructuring of bailiff fees to incentivise good practice, alongside other reforms.

As part of the campaign we have launched a new website, where debtors who have been visited by bailiffs can share their experiences.

Read the full report here.

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