Clampdown on councils using heavy-handed bailiffs

Published on Monday, 17 June 2013 11:07
Posted by Scott Buckler

Eric Pickles today set out plans to tackle the use of heavy-handed bailiffs by councils to protect people from unfair treatment

New guidelines for councils set out that they should no longer be collecting 'contractual kickbacks' from bailiffs or employing those seeking to exploit residents through 'phantom visits' or excessive fees. Figures suggest the five biggest bailiff companies earn a combined revenue in excess of £60 million.

The steps taken today fulfil a coalition government pledge to provide more protection for the public against aggressive bailiffs and unreasonable charges.

The Citizens Advice recently found there had been a 38% increase in complaints about private bailiffs over the last five years. Almost nine in ten bailiff problems the charity deals with relate to private bailiffs, who collect debts such as council tax and parking penalties.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said:

It is unacceptable for councils to employ burly bailiffs with heavy-handed tactics like kicking down doors, making phantom visits or charging excessive fees – it is unfair and damages a council's standing in the community.

Today our new guidance is crystal clear: it is time to stop the dodgy practices where town halls collect contractual kickbacks from bailiffs that will do almost anything to make money.

Citizens Advice Chief Executive Gillian Guy said:

A third of the bailiff problems we help with each year are for council tax debt. We see cases where bailiffs overstate their powers, act aggressively and bump up debts by levying excessive fees and charges. Local authorities must protect people from bailiffs who flout the law by helping people early on who are struggling to pay their council tax. We urge councils to sign up to our protocol for dealing with council tax debt.

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