Citizens Advice is calling for better regulation of unaccountable bailiff firms as it reveals households have fallen behind on their essential bills, such as council tax and utilities, by an estimated £18.9 billion. Last year, the charity helped one person every three minutes with bailiff issues. In 2014, the government introduced reforms which were meant to protect people from unfair practices. Yet since then, Citizens Advice has seen a 24% rise in bailiff problems.
In July, MPs on the Treasury Select Committee said government and local authorities were “worst in class” for debt collection, and that bailiff use can cause additional problems.
Falling behind on household bills typically has more severe consequences than missing consumer credit repayments, like overdrafts and personal loans. People can face having their essential services cut off, can be kicked out of their home due to rent arrears or even face prison if they get behind on their council tax. Citizens Advice is concerned that aggressive tactics are also having serious knock-on effects, leading to further debt and mental health problems.
Citizens Advice says it has seen a significant increase in the proportion of debt issues it helps people with that are related to household bill debts since 2011. Since then, problems with these kinds of debts have overtaken the number of consumer credit issues that people are seeking the charity’s help with.
Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said: “One person every three minutes come to us for help with bailiff issues. 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.”
People who are concerned about their finances can contact Citizens Advice for budgeting and debt advice.
A drop-in service at the Worksop office based in The Annexe, Queens Building, Potter Street, Worksop (next to the Savoy Cinema) is available:
- Monday — 9.30am to 3.00pm
- Wednesday — 9.30am to 3.00pm
- Friday — 9.30am to 1.00pm
Or at the Retford office at 17b The Square, Retford, it is available:
- Tuesday — 10.00am to 2.00pm
- Thursday — 10.00am to 2.00pm