Citizens Advice Oldham is throwing its weight behind a campaign for an independent regulator to crack down on bad-behaving bailiffs.
New figures from Citizens Advice England and Wales and and debt charity StepChange reveal 850,000 of the 2.2 million people contacted by a bailiff in the last two years were victims of bailiffs breaking the rules.
Of the people affected by, or who witnessed a bailiff breaking the rules, one in five (18%) had seen unsympathetic treatment of someone with an illness or disability, one in six (17%) had a break-in threatened, and one in 10 had tools or a vehicle required for their work removed.
In the last two years Citizens Advice Oldham helped 111 people with bailiffs, for debts such as council tax arrears, parking fines, and magistrates’ court fines.
In one example, advisers at the charity helped one person who owed £44.28, £75 was added for compliance and another £235 for enforcement action.
Another payment plan was unaffordable, so we asked that the debt was added to the existing debt with the same payment arrangement.
The client received a text threatening additional fees and committal to prison from the enforcement agent which caused great distress and anxiety.
Rule-breaking bailiffs often cause people more stress, anxiety and financial hardship, according to the research, published on Tuesday.
When someone had a negative experience with a bailiff:
● 7 in 10 reported increased stress and anxiety
● 1 in 2 experienced knock-on effects on their finances, with 1 in 6 people (17%) taking out additional credit to pay the bailiffs
Jonathan Yates, Chief Officer at Citizens Advice Oldham, said the government must step in and regulate the industry to prevent people suffering at the hands of bailiffs who flout the rules.
Mr Yates said: “It beggars belief an industry that can cause so much damage is not properly policed by a regulator.
“We see first hand the widespread harm the actions of bailiffs and the companies they work for inflict on people and their families. It must stop.
“The evidence is clear, the Ministry of Justice has no other option but to establish an independent bailiff regulator.”