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Bailiffs and councils must make sure debts are collected in a fair and responsible way, Justice Minister Lord Faulks said today.
Speaking just weeks before new laws on rogue bailiff behaviour take effect, Lord Faulks addressed the Civil Enforcement Association conference in London today, speaking to an audience of more than 300 representatives of local authorities and bailiffs companies.
Major reforms to the rules for bailiffs will take effect in April, banning them from heavy-handed behaviour but also making sure they can still collect debts fairly.
Lord Faulks told the audience they would be key to ensuring that the people of England and Wales have the fair and effective enforcement system they deserved – and urged them to rise to the challenge.
Speaking after the conference, Lord Faulks said:
‘There are some very good, reputable bailiffs around, but we know there is bad practice out there that needs to be dealt with.
‘A small minority of bailiffs have been allowed to give the industry a bad name.
‘These laws will help to clean up the industry and ensure bailiffs play by the rules. They will also make sure businesses and public bodies can collect their debts fairly.’
The changes will put in place new mandatory training and certification requirements for bailiffs, and simplify the fees that they are allowed to charge for their services.
They will also impose rules on how and when bailiffs can pursue debts, including:
- Stopping bailiffs entering homes when only children are present.
- Banning bailiffs from visiting debtors at night – they will only be allowed to enter between 6am and 9pm.
- Banning landlords from using bailiffs to seize property for residential rent arrears without going to court.
- Preventing bailiffs from taking household items, such as a cooker, microwave, refrigerator or washing machine, because they are deemed to be reasonably required to satisfy the basic domestic needs of the debtor.
- Ensuring a notice period of seven days is given to the debtor before bailiffs take control of the debtor’s goods.
- Banning bailiffs from selling goods removed from a debtor, unless seven days have passed from the date the goods were removed.
- Making bailiffs responsible for proving to a court that there are, or likely to be, goods of the debtor on the premises before being granted the power to use reasonable force to gain entry.
Before a warrant is granted, bailiffs must give the court information on the likely means of entry, the amount of force required and how the premises will be left in a secure state afterwards.
Published: 29 January 2014
From: Ministry of Justice