Bailiffs will be regulated under new laws to “clean up” the industry and protect vulnerable debtors, the Government announced yesterday.
New rules will stop late-night visits to collect debts and restrictions on what property can be seized are being introduced.
Bailiffs will also be banned from entering homes when only children are present and they will no longer be able to set their own fees. New safeguards will also prevent them from using force against people who owe money, according to the Ministry of Justice.
Under the changes, bailiffs will also be forced to undergo a mandatory training and certification scheme and those who breach the new rules will be barred from the industry.
Justice Minister Helen Grant said: “For too long bailiffs have gone unregulated, allowing a small minority to give the industry a bad name. Too many people in debt have had the additional stress of dealing with aggressive bailiffs who often charge extortionate fees.
“These new laws will clean up the industry and ensure bailiffs play by the rules or face being prevented from practising. They will also make sure businesses and public bodies can collect their debts fairly.”
Citizens Advice Bureaux chief executive Gillian Guy told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “This is long overdue and we certainly welcome the fact that the Government has recognised that it’s an issue.
“We get tens of thousands of complaints every year and that’s set to get worse because when council tax benefit changes there will be more people, probably, subject to bailiff action.
“It’s a whole range of issues. It starts with not understanding what bailiffs’ rights are, and that leaves bailiffs open to tell people what they interpret their rights as.
“We’ve had people come to us saying that bailiffs have sought to seize the tools that they use for work or their children’s toys or even pets, and clearly that’s a misinterpretation of what the rules are.”
Labour justice spokesman Rob Flello said: “We need to see the Government bring forward legislation quickly and, provided it addresses our concerns, we will work constructively to help make it happen. At a time of great hardship for so many families, the last thing they need to fear is the knock at the door from an unscrupulous bailiff, whose actions do so much to damage the reputation of those striving to keep up the standards of the rest of the profession.”