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Bailiff reform

Citizens Advice is calling for the bailiff industry to be independently regulated.

Why things need to change

Last year, Citizens Advice helped 41,000 people with bailiff issues.

In 2014, the government introduced reforms to the bailiff industry. These sought to clarify the rights of entry for bailiffs, the items bailiffs could take, and the fees bailiffs could charge.

The 2014 reforms were a step in the right direction. But without any effective means of enforcement, these rules have failed to clean up the industry.

Since 2014 we’ve seen a 24% rise in bailiff problems. Our research finds that:

  • 2.2 million people in England and Wales have been contacted by a bailiff in the last 2 years.

  • 1 in 3 of these have seen bailiffs breaking the rules - such as by forcing entry into a home or removing goods needed for work.

  • This works out as 1 person every minute being forced to deal with a rule-breaking bailiff.

  • Bailiffs are refusing to accept reasonable offers of payment when debt can’t be paid in full. 1 in 4 people contacted by bailiffs has had an affordable payment offer rejected.

In addition, there are significant barriers to making complaints and, when people do, the process doesn’t work:

  • 72% of people who experience a bailiff breaking the rules do not complain at all.

  • The complaints process isn’t independent and bailiff firms are seen to shift the blame while complainants are kept in the dark.

  • Complaints lead to unsatisfactory outcomes. Remedial action rarely leads to a bailiff being penalised for breaking the rules.

  • This lack of consequences serves to deter future complaints.

What we are doing

In order to address widespread bad practice within the bailiff industry, we’re calling on the government to:

  • Introduce an independent bailiff regulator to oversee the activities of bailiffs and bailiff firms.

  • Create a free, independent complaints process to help eliminate problems in the industry.

Given the scale of the problem, this needs to happen urgently.

What we’re saying

Read our bailiff reform policy research:

Read our bailiff reform blogs: