Bailiffs' powers on secured loans to be curtailed

21 March 2007
New safeguards will help protect low-income householders from the predations of private bailiffs, Constitutional Affairs minister Vera Baird has announced.

The new government guidelines, enshrined in the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Bill, clarify "the rights of homeowners and the rights of bailiffs".

Private bailiffs will be licensed and scrutinised by an independent regulator.

Although powers of forced entry will now be extended to all bailiffs, "the new power of forced entry will only be available in strictly controlled circumstances and with prior approval by a judge" Ms Baird explained.

Powers of forced entry apply only to the reclaim of credit card debts where the homeowner has been issued with County Court Judgements or High Court judgements and failed to pay.

"We have always said forced entry can only be used as a last resort and when all other avenues have been exhausted," Ms Baird stressed.

But consumer protection charity Citizens' Advice warned that the independent regulation must be "robust" enough and be effectively enforced.

It is "essential that the regulator has sufficient powers to tackle any bad practice by rogue bailiffs", chief executive David Harker warned.

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