Justice Minister Lucy Frazer said “The majority of bailiffs act professionally and within the rules, but we have been told by those working on the front line that this may not always be the case. Aggressive tactics will not be tolerated, and through our call for evidence we will identify where the problems are and, if necessary, take action to ensure all bailiffs operate professionally and with proper respect and sensitivity.”
In 2014, the government brought in new laws to protect the public from aggressive enforcement agents, while at the same time making sure that debts could still be collected fairly. The first review of those reforms has now been published, demonstrating positive progress since our changes. This includes better awareness around debtor rights and how to complain, more clarity for debtors about the fees that can be charged, the processes that should be followed, and where to go for advice.
The 2014 reforms included banning bailiffs from entering homes at night, using physical force against people with the debts and preventing them from entering home when only children are present. The laws also stopped bailiffs from taking vital household essentials such as cookers, microwaves, fridges or washing machines. The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) review found that since the bailiff reforms progress had been made, including in terms of debtors being aware of their rights.
It also found the overall effectiveness of proper enforcement has improved, with a greater proportion of debts now being successfully enforced. However, following concerns raised by the advice sector, the call for evidence which will be launched shortly seeks to address those minority of bailiffs who continue to flout the rules and aggressively pressure vulnerable people.
Responding to the Ministry of Justice announcement Russell Hamblin-Boone, Chief Executive Officer of the Civil Enforcement Association (CIVEA) said, “It is encouraging to read that the government has completed a thorough review which shows that the regulations introduced in 2014 is working well in the vast majority of cases. While we welcome acknowledgment of the huge strides that have been made in improving enforcement practices, we are concerned that it has been stated that there is a minority that are damaging the reputation of our industry, and we welcome the opportunity for a full exploration of any evidence of rogue bailiffs.”
“We await the evidence, but all enforcement agents are given extensive training. They must pass an exam to qualify for certification and this decision is made by a judge. Increasing numbers of agents wear body-worn cameras to record their visits on film. Film footage is constantly reviewed to monitor agents’ conduct and performance. Often agents’ vehicles are tracked by satellite and their phone use is monitored and recorded.“
The one year review of enforcement agent reforms can be found by clicking here.