We need a regulator to rein in rule-flouting bailiffs, Citizens Advice Halton says
Citizens Advice Halton is throwing its weight behind a campaign for an independent regulator to crack down on bad-behaving bailiffs.
New figures from Citizens Advice England and Wales and debt charity StepChange reveal 850,000 of the 2.2 million people contacted by a bailiff in the last 2 years were victims of bailiffs breaking the rules.
Of the people affected by, or who witnessed a bailiff breaking the rules, 1 in 5 (18%) had seen unsympathetic treatment of someone with an illness or disability, 1 in 6 (17%) had a break-in threatened, and 1 in 10 had tools or a vehicle required for their work removed.
In the last 2 years Citizens Advice Halton helped 323 people with bailiffs, for debts such as council tax arrears, parking fines, and magistrates’ court fines.
In one example, advisers at the charity based in Widnes and Runcorn helped one person who was a single parent with clinically diagnosed mental health illnesses. The bailiffs ignored the fact she was very vulnerable and kept making repeated visits thereby increasing the debt and actually making her illness worse. Best practice dictates that bailiffs should refer the vulnerable person back to the creditor and also refer them to money advice support from agencies like Citizens Advice Halton.
Rule-breaking bailiffs often cause people more stress, anxiety and financial hardship, according to the research, published on Tuesday. When someone had a negative experience with a bailiff:
- 7 in 10 reported increased stress and anxiety
- 1 in 2 experienced knock-on effects on their finances, with 1 in 6 people (17%) taking out additional credit to pay the bailiffs
Hitesh Patel, Chief Officer at Citizens Advice Halton, said the government must step in and regulate the industry to prevent people suffering at the hands of bailiffs who flout the rules.
Hitesh Patel, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Halton, said:
“It beggars belief an industry that can cause so much damage is not properly policed by a regulator.
“We see first hand the widespread harm the actions of bailiffs and the companies they work for inflict on people and their families. It must stop.
“The evidence is clear, the Ministry of Justice has no other option but to establish an independent bailiff regulator.”
Anyone worried about their finances or struggling with to pay their bills is urged to contact Citizens Advice Halton’s money advice team on 0344 477 2121 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org