Numerous sexual encounters in a single night, theft, deceit and revenge feature in the Reeve’s Tale, one of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. What is or was, a Reeve?
In Saxon times, a reeve was an officer of the court whose duties included executing decisions taken by the court. The Normans gave these duties to bailiffs. While the Reeve’s tale was a fable, meant to entertain and carry a moral message, the behaviour of some modern day bailiffs is far from being entertaining and is certainly immoral.
Now, the Ministry of Justice has introduced clearer new rules to clamp down on bailiffs who have been getting around the law. Introduced on 06 April this year, the new rules, mean clearer fees and have been designed to stop bailiffs from doing things like giving enforcement letters to children or visiting people at night which they have done in the past. Citizens Advice has campaigned nationally for the introduction of rules which would eliminate bad practice by bailiffs
The charity has warned that the new rules may not go far enough to protect consumers, as bailiff firms will still not be held responsible for the way their staff behave. Based on the experience of clients who come to Citizens Advice for help, lawless bailiffs have flouted the rules in the past, intimidating people and inflating debts.
Every week Citizens Advice Bureaux across the country help with 1,000 bailiff problems. Locally, people who have sought help from Citizens Advice Waverley have been physically threatened by bailiffs, charged for phantom visits or seen their debts balloon because of sky-high fees. Bailiffs collecting parking fines added an average of £400 to debts originally worth £150.
The main changes which came into force on 06 April include:
- compulsory training and certification for anyone acting as a bailiff
- a simpler fee structure, including set fees for each stage of bailiff action
- a responsibility to keep you informed at all stages of the process, using notices that are set out by law
- banning bailiffs from visiting you at night
- stopping bailiffs from entering a home when only a child is present
- preventing bailiffs from taking household items that you need, such as a cooker or washing machine
- greater protection for vulnerable people who are facing bailiff action
- making sure you have at least seven days’ notice of bailiff action
- making sure bailiff don’t sell your belongings unless you’ve been given at least seven days’ notice.
Bailiffs are only used for collecting certain debts, such as council tax arrears, parking fines and county court judgements. If you’re dealing with bailiff action that began before 6 April 2014, different rules may apply.