Dealing with Debt Collectors and Enforcement Agents Part 2
Part 2 – Complaints
If you have ever been in debt and received a visit from a Debt Collector or Enforcement Agent (commonly known as bailiffs), you may already be aware of the deceptive and intimidating tactics they often use to try to pressure you into entering payment agreements or letting them into your home.
You do not have to comply with either of these demands and it is usually best not to.
Whilst there are strict regulations governing bailiff conduct, they will often overstep the mark, putting their career and their bond at risk.
Did you know…
To become a court Enforcement Agent, one must first undergo background checks and satisfy the issuing judge that they are a ‘fit and proper person’ (s.3 Certification of Enforcement Agents Regulations 2014) and issue a £10,000 bond security into the court to obtain their certificate (s.6). This bond is held against any complaints made against them and their certificates can be suspended or revoked in serious cases (s.10).
There is much at stake for an Enforcement Agent who does not stick to the rules, and you have recourse to hold them to account should you fall foul of misconduct. It is not just your property at stake in these situations, but their license, career, and their court security bond too.
Knowledge is Power
Misconduct can range from obvious breaches such as forceful or abusive behaviour, intimidation, aggression and trying to barge past you through the door but can also be less obvious technicalities that you may not be aware of. Below we list a few:
- Misleading you or overstating their powers or actions they can take (impersonating the powers of police, for example).
- It is an offence if you are not given notice of their visit at least seven days before they visit.
- If you are vulnerable, they cannot proceed with you without regard to this; they must give you time to seek advice and must notify the creditor who sent them.
- They cannot remove your vehicle if it is needed for your work (must be essential use, not just for journeying to and from) or if it is used for living in or vital to studies.
- If your vehicle is worth £1350 or less (auction price not market price), it is exempt.
- Vehicles displaying a blue badge are exempt.
- If any exemptions apply to your vehicle, you can reclaim your property and make a complaint for any loss or damage suffered.
- If the exemptions do not apply and they have clamped your car, they must leave a clear two hours between clamping and removing it and should have stuck a notice to the window displaying the relevant time.
- They cannot charge fees over and above those set out in the Taking Control of Goods Regulations (Fees)
- They cannot charge fees to vulnerable persons.
- If the debt has been paid, they cannot enforce their fees and their enforcement power ceases to exist (retain proof of any payment made to the creditor).
- They must not trick you into allowing them entry into your property, such as asking to use the toilet, for example.
- They cannot climb through an open window to enter your property.
- They must not take goods that do not belong to the debtor and cannot take items belonging to minors (under 16) or those required for an ill, elderly, or disabled person.
- They must withdraw if the only person at home is under 16 years old or otherwise vulnerable.
Redress for misconduct
If a bailiff has not conducted themselves in accordance with the rules, gather your evidence (this could be video footage you have taken of the interaction or a written witness statement by yourself or others present, for example) and make a formal complaint to the appropriate bodies:
- Complain to the ‘creditor’ (the company or authority who sent them) using their formal complaints procedure as ultimately, they are deemed liable under the legislation.
- Complain to the Bailiff company directly.
- Form EAC2 can be used to complain directly to the issuing court about bailiffs’ fitness/conduct. Statutory Right.
- The Court holds a £10k bailiff bond – compensation can be drawn against this (s.11 Certification of Enforcement Agents Regulations 2014).
- If you complain to the court, your complaint should be considered by the judge and if deemed necessary, heard at a hearing, offering you and the Enforcement Agent the opportunity to present your case/evidence (s.9)
- Issue your own proceedings in cases where you can evidence suffering distress, harm, or loss because of the Enforcement Agents misbehaviour and seek costs and damages.
Don’t let them get away with breaking their own rules!
We recommend further reading here: www.nationalbailiffadvice.uk/EAC2.html
Want to know more?
Read part one of our dealing with debt collectors and enforcement agents here.
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NB: This article refers to matters of general debt. There are some circumstances where bailiffs have additional powers to enforce by entering a property, such as home repossession, utility warrants, commercial premises, and criminal fines. These matters require specialist advice at the earliest opportunity and the above does not fully apply to these situations.