From 6th April 2014, new regulations will take effect dramatically reforming the law bailiffs in the UK currently operate under. The reforms are part of a Government strategy to deliver protection against unsound bailiff tactics whilst ensuring that debt can still be collected efficiently and effectively.
The legislation underpins Part 3 of the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 and represents a major breakthrough for a policy which has been consistently been delayed by industrial concerns and compromises.
The reforms were laid before Parliament in three instalments, the first set of rules being outlined in ‘The Taking Control of Goods Regulations 2013’. These regulations introduced new procedures in order to simplify the enforcement process and included powers of entry along with specifying days and times when an enforcement agent can take control of goods.
The second instalment, ‘Taking Control of Goods (Fees) Regulations 2014’, was introduced in January 2014 and contained a new fee regime for High Court Enforcement, replacing the existing multiple types of fee scale across different enforcement practices. By standardising enforcement fees, the Government hope it will encourage earlier payment by debtors as the future costs of failing to do so will be made fully aware to them. It will also ensure that enforcement agents are adequately remunerated for the work they carry out and removes incentives to take unnecessary enforcement action by preventing them charging additional fees.
On 28th February 2014, the Government released ‘The Certification of Enforcement Agents Regulations 2014’. These represented the third and final set of regulations to underpin the Government’s bailiff law reforms. They have focused on the requirements an individual must meet before they are granted a certificate to work as an enforcement agent and demonstrate a clear intention by the Government to regulate this area of law and protect the welfare of consumers.
In response to the proposed introduction of these reforms, Justice Minister Helen Grant said:
‘There are some very good, reputable bailiffs around, but we know there is bad practice out there that needs to be dealt with.
‘For too long bailiffs have gone unregulated, allowing a small minority to give the industry a bad name.
‘These laws will help to clean up the industry and ensure bailiffs play by the rules. They will also make sure businesses and public bodies can collect their debts fairly.’
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