It may have been more than five weeks after most of the Government’s lockdown restrictions came into force, but the last week of April finally saw bailiffs banned from carrying out home visits to enforce debts.

Now, because of fears that they might spread the coronavirus, emergency legislation has been passed that means no bailiff can visit a consumer’s home for the purposes of trying to enforce a debt.

The new laws, which are amendments to the Taking Control of Goods Regulations 2013, not only prevent bailiffs from entering properties and seizing possessions, but also ban the practice of taking any vehicles that a debtor might have parked outside their home.

There had certainly been reports in some newspapers that bailiff visits continued in the early weeks of the lockdown, even if the bailiffs trade association the Civil Enforcement Association insisted later in April that their members had ceased carrying out home visits and were now instead using their vehicles to support deliveries of essential supplies.

StepChange chief executive Phil Andrew welcomed the move, but took the opportunity to call for additional regulation of bailiffs, commenting:

“This emergency legislation is welcome, and reinforces our view that if the debt enforcement system can’t be fully relied upon to hold off inappropriate action during the emergency period without legislation, then it can’t be relied on to operate to high standards of practice without a formal regulatory system in the long term either.

“That’s why we regard statutory regulation of the bailiff sector as a vital next step that the Ministry of Justice should take, which would give greater confidence that debt enforcement will be handled more appropriately in the future, addressing the woeful inadequacies that have caused such harm and detriment to vulnerable people in the past.”

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