Bailiffs chasing debts may be able to increase the fees they charge some debtors from £42.50 to £305 if government proposals come into force.
The coalition has opened a consultation it said was designed to “provide a major legal overhaul of the bailiff industry”, but Citizen’s Advice said the proposals do not go far enough and could even cost some debtors more.
The proposals, which aim to make minor amendments to the yet-to-be implemented Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007, proposes bailiffs be allowed to charge householders an enforcement fee of £305 in the case of unpaid council tax.
Council tax bills in arrears is by far the biggest category of debt chased by bailiffs. Citizens Advice figures show that in 2011 it had 23,000 enquiries from people concerned about bailiffs chasing such a debt compared to 7,000 queries about bailiffs chasing all other debts.
Peter Tutton, social policy officer from Citizens Advice, said: “We are concerned this is a massive, massive increase in the call out fees bailiffs will be allowed to charge those behind with their council tax.
“People struggling with council tax are often low-income families who are especially financially vulnerable.”
The proposals also include amendments to end the practice of baillifs using force to re-enter a property to seize goods once they have been granted initial entry, and restricting the times they can knock o a debtor’s door to between 6am and 9pm.
However, the government said it considers long-called-for statutory regulation of bailiffs unnecessary.
Tutton said: “While there are one or two welcome things in these new proposals, they are meaningless without the introduction of an independent regulator – something we have been calling on for some time. Unless a regulator is introdced these proposals will not do as they are intended.”
The Money Advice Trust said a survey of its clients last year showed that some of the lines bailiffs used to try and gain entry included: “Please can I come in, I really need the toilet?”, and “I’m here from the local council to carry out maintenance work”.
There are 2,000 registered bailiffs in England and Wales who between them chase 3.5m enforcements a year.
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