CITIZENS Advice has raised concerns about aggressive tactics being used by bailiffs and wants to see better regulation of their activities. It has also highlighted the unfair practice of tenants in the private rented sector being subjected to revenge evictions as a result of raising a complaint.
In 2014, the government introduced reforms which were meant to protect people from unfair tactics used by bailiffs. But since they were introduced the number of people consulting Citizens Advice about problems with bailiffs has risen by 24 per cent.
People who fall behind on household bills, such as utility bills, typically face more severe consequences than those missing other repayments, like overdrafts and personal loans. Their essential services are often cut off, they can be kicked out of their home due to rent arrears or face being taken to court if they get behind with their council tax.
Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Families are living in fear of a visit from the bailiffs, and small missed bills can skyrocket through excessive enforcement fees.
“Our evidence shows aggressive tactics by bailiffs cause huge distress and can even push people further into debt. Families are going without essentials like food or electricity to meet their payments.
“The Ministry of Justice has already announced a call for evidence into aggressive collection practices by bailiffs. They must use this to take strong action and introduce an independent bailiff regulator to fix this broken system.”
Household debt has now overtaken consumer credit as the key money problem people bring to Citizens Advice and research it has undertaken show that UK households owe £18.9 billion to government departments, local authorities and essential service providers. This includes tax credit overpayments of almost £7.5 billion, £2.84 billion of council tax arrears and £2.20 billion owed to water companies.
Another piece of research from Citizens Advice has discovered that tenants in the private rented sector who complain about problems such as damp and mould in their home significantly increases their chances of being evicted by their landlords. It estimates that since legislation was introduced in 2015 which attempted to ban revenge evictions about 141,000 tenants have been affected.
Ms Guy commented: “Those living in sub-standard properties must have greater protection against eviction when they complain. Our report shows that well-intentioned laws created to put an end to revenge evictions have not worked, and a new fix is needed.
“There are serious question marks over the existence of a power that allows landlords to unilaterally evict tenants without reason – known as Section 21. While government plans for minimum three year tenancies are a step in the right direction, these changes must be strong enough to genuinely prevent revenge evictions once and for all.”
Anyone is welcome to seek advice from any session of Citizens Advice even if they do not have an appointment. The advice given will always be free, confidential and impartial.
In Lyme Regis a regular weekly advice session is held every Wednesday from 10am to 3pm at St Michael’s Business Centre, DT7 3DB, in the centre of the town and at least until December sessions are also being held on Mondays between 10am and 12nppm at Lyme Regis Medical Centre in Uplyme Road, DT7 3LS.
If these times are inconvenient anyone can instead go to the Citizens Advice offices at South Street, Bridport, DT6 3NY which holds a session every weekday between 10am and 3pm. In addition you can contact Citizens Advice by email on email@example.com or telephone 0344 245 1291, which will get you through to the Dorset AdviceLine.