When it comes to council tax and bailiffs, positive stories do not usually spring to mind, however the latest news to hit the press is over the government’s new crackdown to stop bailiffs using aggressive tactics; changes that came into force across England and Wales yesterday. Below we have explored the implications of these changes.
Some of the biggest law alterations include a ban on bailiffs entering homes late at night and from using physical force against debtors. They will also be prevented from entering homes when only children are present, and from taking household essentials such as washing machines, ovens or fridges. All in all, some pretty major changes that serve to protect those who are already facing the stress of debt.
Mandatory training will also be introduced and certification from bailiffs will be required. Part of this training will include recognising vulnerable groups of people, who in turn will also receive greater assistance.
Another key area that will see change is in the stages before bailiffs even enter a property. Now required to provide seven days’ notice before taking possessions, they will also need to inform the court of their likely means of entry, amount of force required to enter and the goods involved before a warrant can be granted.
Landlords will also be affected by the reforms; no longer allowed to use bailiffs to seize property for residential rent debt before taking the matter to court.
Why has this happened?
It’s claimed that around 4 million debts are collected by bailiffs every year in the UK, so there was a growing necessity for change. Citizens Advice Bureau said that the current rules needed to go further and called for greater accountability within the industry.
The changes have come following the Ministry of Justice’s consultation on the debt collection industry in 2013. They are also part of wider reforms to the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007. BBC News legal correspondent, Clive Coleman, explains that the current laws are complex, unclear and confusing. As we know, these complications often lead to bailiffs misrepresenting their power and authority. By clarifying rules, Coleman believes the government can crackdown on the use of aggression and excessive force which lies beyond bailiffs’ means.
Naturally the changes have seen a lot of support from a number of different groups of people, including the Citizens’ Advice Bureau itself. Karen Dyson from the organisation claims that “we are really pleased to see these new rules. It’s a real chance for bailiff companies to review the way their staff are operating. She would also be keen to see a licensing system whereby companies are struck off if bailiffs do not adhere to these terms.
The reforms have even been encouraged by those more directly involved with bailiffs. Steve Everson from the Civil Enforcement Association, an independently funded association representing bailiffs in England and Wales explained “It’s a tidying up, and a tightening up, of regulations and legislation that has built up over hundreds of years. He also claimed that “the whole thing is designed to get more professionalism within the industry.”
Finally, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling explains that “aggressive bailiff activity is unacceptable and it is high time that the cowboys out there are stopped from giving the rest of this industry a bad name.” She explains that people will still have to face up to their debts, but without the fear of their homes being raided at night, the threat of violence vital household equipment being seized.
What happens now?
Here at Council Tax Advisors we specialise in offering help to those in council tax arrears as well as educating people on their rights and dispelling myths on bailiffs’ powers. As such we are pleased to see some clarification on the rules as well as changes which offer those who need it greater protection.
We’ll be interested to keep an eye on these changes to see whether bailiff companies stick to the stricter rules and how widely the public are made aware of the reforms.
We’re confident the changes will help to reduce bailiff malpractice, however it is still important for people to be aware of their rights should a situation arise. Remember, it is within your rights not to let bailiffs into your home and something we would advise against. If you’re unsure of what to do or you’re being contact by bailiffs speak to us for more information.