Press release

Cowboy bailiffs outlawed as new law takes effect

Bailiffs will be banned from entering homes at night and from using physical force against debtors under new laws coming into effect this weekend to clean up the industry, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has announced.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Scales of justice

The sweeping changes will also prevent bailiffs from entering properties where only children are at home and includes further measures to protect vulnerable people. Bailiffs will be prevented from taking vital household essentials from debtor’s property, such as a cooker, microwave, refrigerator or washing machines.

The laws have been changed to bring an end to bad and aggressive bailiff behaviour, while making sure businesses, local authorities and others can still fairly enforce debts owed to them.

With roughly 4 million debts collected each year, in future only bailiffs who have been trained and received certification will be allowed to practise.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said:

We are stamping out bad practice and making sure bailiffs play by the rules. Those who don’t will be banned.

Aggressive bailiff activity is unacceptable and it is high time that the cowboys out there are stopped from giving the rest of this important industry a bad name.

People will still have to face up to their debts – but they will no longer need to fear their home being raided at night, the threat of violence or having their vital household equipment seized.

From today, the new protections will:

  • Ban bailiffs from entering homes when only children are present.

  • Ensure bailiffs can’t visit debtors’ homes at night – they will only be allowed to enter between 6am and 9pm.

  • Ban landlords from using bailiffs to seize property for residential rent debts without going to court first.

  • Introduce mandatory training and a new certification process for all bailiffs.

  • Ensure vulnerable people get assistance and advice and that bailiffs are trained to recognise when they are dealing with someone vulnerable.

  • Include a simple set of rules detailing when a bailiff can enter a property and what goods they can take.

  • Introduce restrictions on when bailiffs can sell goods.

  • Require bailiffs to give the court information on the likely means of entry, goods involved and amount of force required before a warrant is granted to force entry, as well as details of how the premises will be left in a secure state afterwards.

The measures will also force bailiffs to give seven days notice before taking possessions, unless they have specific permission from a court.

A new set of fixed fees for debtors has also been introduced, to end the previous situation where bailiffs were setting their own fees – some times at very high levels – and adding these to the amount people in debt had to pay.

Notes to editors

  1. These reforms which come into effect on April 6 are part of a wider package under changes to the Tribunals, Courts & Enforcement Act 2007.

  2. The law changes to stop aggressive bailiffs complete a commitment made in the Coalition Agreement.

  3. For more information call the Ministry of Justice press office on 0203 334 3536. Follow us on twitter @MoJPress.

Published 4 April 2014