Is a council using a bailiff ever a ‘sensitive’ approach?

For a lot of people, the words ‘sensitive’ and ‘bailiff’ are two that wouldn’t likely be seen together in the same sentence.

A lot of bailiffs have a rough, aggressive reputation. It’s fair to point out, though, that a lot of them are reasonable and are people just doing their jobs.

It’s also fair to say though that Wealden District Council’s calling its use of bailiffs as a ‘sensitive, appropriate and successful’ approach to debt collection has raised a few eyebrows.

The East Sussex-body has defended resorting to bailiffs to collect debts such as unpaid council tax, saying its ‘sensitive policy’ is considered ‘best practice’.

According to the council itself, last year 2,600 liability orders were raised against residents who hadn’t paid their council tax, with 232 cases seeing enforcement agents getting involved.

Says Wealden District Council: “Of the 232 cases passed to the enforcement agents, 113 were returned back to the council recovery team either because they were being paid or because the
enforcement agents’ advice was; that these people were vulnerable, the creation of a long-term payment plan should be agreed or that an alternative method of payment would be more suitable.

“Enforcement agents are still working with the remaining 119 clients to find a solution. Removing goods will only be considered as a last resort.”

Wealden is far from the only council across the UK sending the bailiffs out to recover debts. A highly- critical report of local councils using bailiffs in ‘overzealous’ ways was published by the House of Commons Treasury Committee in July, and highlighted how 2.3 million debt cases were passed on to bailiffs in 2016 by local authorities.

MPs in the report called on such local authorities to reform their practices of using bailiffs, which Wealden describes as a ‘sensitive’ approach to debt collection.

From our point of view, people who are stuck in a cycle of debt, doing their best to get out of it and having to deal with bailiffs isn’t what a lot of people would call sensitive.

The prospect of a bailiff banging on the door and threatening to repossess possessions is also affecting people’s mental health according to Citizens Advice.

If you have bills to pay and are being harassed by a bailiff, from the council or otherwise, you have legal rights that you can exercise to ease the pressure. They aren’t allowed in at certain hours for instance, are only allowed through the door and can’t enter by force.

Start on the path to becoming debt-free today and know your rights if you’re scared of a visit from the bailiffs by speaking to the Get Bailiff Advice team today.

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