More than 22,000 people visited by bailiffs in Lewisham over 2017/18
According to a Freedom of Information request, Lewisham Council used bailiffs to collect overdue council tax from 22,147 people in 2017/18.
That’s up from the previous financial year where 20,384 residents in the area saw their council tax arrears collected by a bailiff.
It’s an extraordinary rise, and the information backs up claims published in July from the House of Commons Treasury Committee that said local councils’ use of bailiffs to collect debt had become ‘overzealous’.
MPs in the report are calling for reforms, yet these figures suggest that bailiffs are still the collection avenue of choice for Lewisham Council. Lewisham is not alone though in contacting bailiffs to collect council tax arrears, with many local authorities across the UK regarding it as their first port of call.
What’s worse for people on the receiving end of a knock on the door from bailiffs though is the affects an approach has on their mental health. Though we believe the majority may just be doing
their job, there are undoubtedly a lot of rogue bailiffs and agencies out there unduly pressuring citizens to pay up.
It’s something the mental health charity Mind has recently highlighted. They have called on the government to do more to protect people from aggressive bailiffs, underlining results in a recent survey that said 50% of people they had spoken to had felt suicidal after being visited by one.
Similarly, 80% of those surveyed by Mind said that they had experienced threatening behaviour from bailiffs. With councils often using bailiffs as a first resort to collect money from an unpaid council tax bill, it can be extremely distressing for people to have a bailiff demanding money when they’re already stuck in a cycle of debt.
Mind aren’t the only charity calling for change. The Money Advice Trust (MAT) has also reported a 40% increase in calls over the last five years from people asking for advice about how to approach their council tax arrears.
“The fact that Lewisham Council’s use of bailiff action has increased so significantly in recent years is certainly a concern,” says Jane Tully of National Debtline, run by MAT.
“Receiving a court summons or a bailiff’s knock on the door can be an extremely distressing experience – especially for people who are already in financial difficulty. The effect on families with children in the house is particularly worrying.”
You have rights though, and shouldn’t be bullied. Bailiffs have to adhere to strict codes of conduct – find out what they are and how you can keep bailiffs from your door by speaking to the Get Bailiff Advice team today.