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Bailiff regulations 'could cost debtors more'

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Bailiff regulations ‘could cost debtors more’” was written by Lisa Bachelor, for guardian.co.uk on Friday 17th February 2012 16.11 UTC

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.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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1 comment to Bailiff regulations ‘could cost debtors more’

  • Polystyrene Anchor

    It is proposed in the consultation paper that the new inflated scale of bailiff fees would remove possible financial incentives for the bailiffs taking unnecessary enforcement action. In theory this seems feasible, and with the proposed fees, when compared with those currently allowed, increasing by 600% for pre-levy stage enforcement the bailiff would be very well recompensed for the work undertaken. What there is clear evidence of though, is the input from those influencing the revised fee proposal who have a vested interest in boosting their profits.

    It could be viewed that implementing such an inflated scale of fees might be the only way to prevent fraudulent charging. If this is deemed to be the only measure to control the criminal element residing in the private enforcement industry, then it suggests that those working for these bailiff firms are not the type of people, a responsible government would want doing this job.

    The current commission based fee arrangement, presumably functions to engage enforcement agents in the high volume of cases requiring bailiff action, with the financial reward being the carrot intended to incentivise the undertaking of the job.

    Rewarding enforcement agents with such extreme financial incentives as proposed, may have a detrimental effect on the volume of collections made on behalf of local authorities. If by introducing these higher fees, the incentive is lost to clear current volumes, this must impact on what is essentially the primary concern of councils, which is to carry out a “conveyor belt” style operation of these collections.

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