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Charities call for action against rule-breaking bailiffs

A third of people contacted by bailiffs experience rule-breaking behaviour, including threats and forced entry, according to Citizens Advice and debt charity StepChange. 

Government reforms in 2014 restricted how and when bailiffs can enter people's homes, and which items they're allowed to take.

But since then, Citizens Advice has seen a 24% rise in bailiff problems. It has now estimated that 850,000 of the 2.2 million people who were contacted by a bailiff over the past two years experienced bailiffs "pushing the limits" by forcing entry into homes or taking items which were needed for work. 

Citizens Advice, StepChange and nine other organisations are today calling for the introduction of an independent bailiff regulator to enforce higher standards.

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What does the research show?

The research was commissioned by Citizens Advice and StepChange and carried out by polling agency YouGov.

The study polled 5,786 people in England and Wales, of whom 277 had been contacted by bailiffs over the last two years. This data was then extrapolated to give an estimate of national figures.

Respondents were asked whether they had witnessed or been affected by problematic behaviour from bailiffs:

  • 18% reported "unsympathetic behaviour" towards people with an illness or disability.

  • 17% had been threatened with a break-in.

  • 11% had goods needed for their work (such as tools or a vehicle) removed.

  • 6% reported forced entry into their home.

Citizens Advice also found that negative experiences with bailiffs had an impact on people's mental health and finances, with seven out of 10 reporting increased stress and anxiety, while half said there were knock-on effects on their finances.

What does Citizens Advice say?

Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy said: "Too often bailiffs, and the firms they work for, are a law unto themselves. This is inflicting widespread harm on people and their families and it has to stop.

"The 2014 reforms were well-intentioned but sadly have had little effect on improving the behaviour of some bailiffs.

"Faced with the evidence we've put in front of them, the Ministry of Justice has no other option but to establish an independent bailiff regulator."